Midweek Takeaway: A positive first impression as Doncaster Rovers kick-off the Butler Era in the ideal manner

As first impressions go, it was a pretty good one.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 8:33 am
Updated Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 8:50 am

Whether it was Andy Butler in the dugout or the players on the pitch for Doncaster Rovers they started a brand new era on a positive note.

There would always be questions about how the sudden and swift impact of Darren Moore would impact the group.

And then there was the small matters of a five game run that brought four defeats and the threat of a highly promising season petering out.

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The Rovers squad celebrate with Fejiri Okenabirhie after his goal against Portsmouth. Picture: Andrew Roe/AHPIX

But a well-deserved win over promotion rivals Portsmouth, brought about through an impressive and entertaining performance, answered plenty of questions in one fell swoop.

There were calls of the big and expected variety from Butler in his team selection.

Handing the impressive Louis Jones his league debut in goal was the big one, ending the vice-like grip that loan keepers had on the position under the previous manager.

And there were no surprises to see James Coppinger in the starting XI for only the sixth time in the league this season. That number will no doubt increase significantly over the next couple of months.

After the sterile dominance of the ball in the defeat to Ipswich Town at the weekend, this was a more aggressive version of Rovers.

There remained a desire to control possession but it was equally weighted with the determination to get into advanced positions rapidly rather than playing a game of patience.

Movement off the ball was excellent, giving the likes of John Bostock and Matt Smith plenty of options for a pass when they took up possession in the middle of the park.

Bostock in particular pulled the strings in midfield, with his wonderful through ball to set up Reece James for a 12th minute opener typical of his overall quality on the ball.

It was surprising that Portsmouth had little response during the first half, with Rovers out-battling a lethargic visiting outfit.

While the Rovers backline remained intent on playing out, there was also a welcome no-nonsense streak at times to get the ball well away from danger.

It was important when Portsmouth emerged stronger after the break, complete with a system change that gave them a grip on the game without overly troubling Jones’ goal.

And there was a welcome ruthlessness on display as Rovers grabbed a second goal on 70 minutes.

Scott Robertson found Fejiri Okenabirhie who powered into space before lashing a shot into the roof of the net from a ridiculously tight angle.

It had appeared to put the game to bed.

But there was the familiarity of a late goal back for an opposition that seemed dead and buried. It has been one of the stories of the season that Rovers just cannot help conceding, no matter what the circumstances.

But it would have been unjust had Portsmouth found an equaliser in the few seconds remaining after former Rovers striker John Marquis volleyed them a goal back - even if it did take a piece of heroic defending from Reece James to prevent that.

James hurling himself in front of Harvey White to prevent him from poking in with the game’s last kick was indicative of the collective desire and determination to get this right.

And it was the perfect way to end a positive first impression.

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In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.