Midweek Takeaway: Utility man's starring role in Swindon Town win shows power of flexibility within Doncaster Rovers

There was a time when ‘utility player’ was a tag professional footballers were keen to avoid.

By Liam Hoden
Tuesday, 15th December 2020, 11:38 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th December 2020, 12:02 am

It so often applied to individuals not quite good enough to nail down a particular position but sufficiently reliable to slot in when required.

There are those sort of utility players and then there is Reece James.

The 27-year-old continued his remarkable season by scoring a brace in Doncaster Rovers’ 2-1 win over Swindon Town.

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Reece James lines up his second goal against Swindon. Picture: Howard Roe/AHPIX

It came in a match where the ‘natural’ left back started on the left wing, spent some time on the right and finished as a sitting midfielder.

And there is the small matter of the two finishes he produced, both of which plenty of strikers would have been pleased with.

Prior to joining Rovers he had scored two senior competitive goals. Yet here he netted two in a single game to take his tally to five for the season.

He has blossomed through his versatility and looks set to continue to keep others out of the side that would call the positions he now so regularly occupies their natural role

The choice to play him further forward has always been a tactical one for Darren Moore.

Initially it was about providing resilience and control higher up the pitch but James has shown that his quality on the ball, decision making and reading of space can be just as useful with a fully attacking mindset.

James’ versatility is the most overt example of the innate adaptability within the Rovers squad.

And it is that flexibility that can drive Rovers towards success this season, as reflected in their last two performances.

Saturday’s win over Gillingham was superb for the manner in which Rovers dragged the visitors out of shape with excellent movement off the ball coupled with incisive passing.

There were times, particularly in the first half against Swindon, when they failed to show similar levels of quality or the tempo required to make it effective.

Fluidity in the middle of the park, with everyone capable of slotting into each other’s position is the secret to success for Rovers.

After the opening half hour on Tuesday night they brought it back to the fore and continued until James had grabbed his second goal.

His first came two minutes into the second half when latching onto a pass from Josh Sims - who looked to suffer a bad hamstring injury - into the box and rifled beyond Matej Kovar.

The second came on 72 minutes when he charged into space on the left and was found with a superb pass from Ben Whiteman before firing into the far corner.

Swindon - whose attacking play throughout belied their positioning as strugglers in League One - produced a rally in the later stages but could not breach Rovers until winning a penalty.

Diallang Jaiyesimi tumbled under a challenge from Brad Halliday and dusted himself to score from the spot with the final kick of the game.

It was not the most sparkling performance from Rovers but they got the job done - all courtesy of their thanks to their utility man.

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