Midweek Takeaway: Doncaster Rovers pay heavy price for foolishness and frailty in Oxford United defeat

The last thing you need when things are not going your way is to make matters worse with your own actions.

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 10:31 pm

But Doncaster Rovers were the architects of their own downfall yet again as a catastrophic first half saw them slump to a defeat at one member of the chasing pack they are so desperate to keep at arm's length.

They failed to deal with a canny approach from Oxford United and paid the price. You know what they say about trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

At a time when they needed to be smart and sensible, Rovers kept on trying to do something that was not only not working, but severely damaging them. And they were ruthlessly punished for their foolishness.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Oxford United's Elliot Lee slides in on Taylor Richards. Picture: Gareth Williams/AHPIX

Oxford knew Rovers would try to play out from the back. But they did not waste energy pressing the centre halves like many opposition teams do.

Instead, they looked to intercept the passes into midfield before they reached their target. They were smarter at reading what Rovers were going to do than Rovers were themselves.

And so, time and again in the first half, Rovers handed possession to the opposition deep in their own territory, inviting pressure that led to three goals and could easily have brought more.

All three strikes - Matty Taylor’s close range finishes and even Olamide Shodipo’s driven finish - were eminently preventable, mainly in the build-up to the final chance.

Arguably the bigger worry on the evening was the effect falling behind on the confidence in the side.

Even before conceding the two poor goals just before the break they looked a beaten side with a sudden lack of energy in the final third.

It had looked set to be an open game. Though Oxford were focusing their attention on preventing Rovers playing out, when the ball got up the field there was plenty of space to exploit and they looked a threat in the early stages.

But after Taylor poked Oxford in front on 19 minutes, the zip in play evaporated.

Off the ball runs were woefully lacking, ensuring when there was space for a pass out of midfield, there was no one there to receive it. Nor were there dummy runs designed to make space for others.

Despite all this, five minutes from the break Rovers were still in the game, so close to the chance for a half time reset.

But during those remaining five minutes their chances of taking anything home disappeared.

Scythed open from a set piece for Taylor’s second, they then gifted the ball straight to the opposition for Shodipo put the game to bed.

The second half was better for Rovers but it was always likely to be. Oxford sat in and looked to strike on the break, inviting Rovers to take possession and try to craft.

Build-up play was decent but things became flat or desperate in and around the box.

AJ Greaves - a bright spark in the first period - found his name added to the lengthy injury list which has severely hampered Rovers over the past fortnight.

The injury crisis is something that they cannot control. They desperately need to be better at the things they can.

*

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. Liam Hoden, editor.