Niall Ennis, flying full backs, Devante Cole's rapidly growing popularity plus other talking points from Doncaster Rovers' win over Southend United
Doncaster Rovers ran out comfortable winners against a Southend United side for whom they almost certainly have reached ‘bogey team’ status.
Kieran Sadlier scored twice with Niall Ennis adding another in a decent performance punctuated by sloppy play and unforced errors.
Here we take a look at some of the key points from the victory.
MORE THAN A GOALSCORER
It is nothing new to praise Niall Ennis for his work rate, but it bears repeating after an excellent performance - and one which brought a goal too.
His third goal for Rovers was an excellent one, drilling in low on the turn after receiving a pass with an excellent touch. If anyone has deserved a goal recently, it is the 20-year-old.
He himself knows he needs to score more than goals. But he offers much more beyond any ability in front of goal. His workrate sees him create space for others and keep attacks alive with a touch and release.
On Tuesday night he was particularly effective in possession, either in the middle or the wide areas where he looked to bring others into the game.
It says plenty that Rovers have won 56 per cent of the games in which Ennis has featured. Without him in the side, that win rate drops to just 19 per cent. He is undoubtedly a key man.
DON’T ALLOW ROVERS TO PUSH FORWARD
The worst thing opposition teams can do is to allow the Rovers midfield to push forward.
Southend sought to press Rovers high up the pitch and stop them playing out from the back but such close attention evaporated once play moved beyond that.
It allowed Ben Whiteman and Ben Sheaf to push very high into Southend territory which kept up pressure for long stretches of the game.
Whiteman and Sheaf’s combined presence in attacking areas keeps Rovers firmly on the front foot, allowing them to dominate the ball and keep possession patiently in the final third.
COLE HAS WON FANS ALREADY
Devante Cole was serenaded by the Black Bank at the Keepmoat before he had even touched the ball. And the singing for the new signing barely halted from the moment he came off the bench until the final whistle. His song caught on quickly, reflecting the positivity his signing has been greeted with.
His own contribution was brief but there were signs of what he can add to the Rovers side, particularly with his off the ball movement into dangerous areas. He won a couple of flick-ons too, which Rovers have not had on a reliable basis this season. If he builds on that initial show of potential, the singing will not stop.
MOORE WON’T LET STANDARDS SLIP
Very rarely since he took over as manager has Darren Moore cut a frustrated figure in his post match press conferences. He is a boss who typically struggles to criticise his players in public.
On this occasion, he was disappointed at standards slipping in Rovers’ performance and only happy to let the wider world know..
There was a sloppiness to Rovers’ play, particularly out from the back while things were rushed at times in advanced areas too.
While delighted with the three points, Moore was not happy and pledged to find the reasons behind the poor performance.
He is a demanding manager, with his main request being consistency.
FULL BACKS OFFER SO MUCH
One of the most pleasing aspects of the performance was the attacking aggression of full backs Reece James and Brad Halliday - both of which could have got on the scoresheet.
They spent the majority of their time in the opposition half, at times incredibly deeply so. Both offer tremendous support to the attacking four and deliver very useful width to the Rovers side as a whole.
Both are very important to the overall cause and help deliver Moore’s philosophy out on the pitch.
STILL ISSUES WITH PLAYING OUT
Rovers’ penchant for playing out from the back has been improved on as the season has worn on but there are occasions when it has been exposed that they still have work to do in improving in the approach.
This was one of them, with Southend’s strong pressing of the Rovers back line causing plenty of problems.
Rovers ended up playing themselves into trouble on several occasions. In fact, the biggest danger to Rovers seemed to be Rovers themselves.
They have made big strides in improving, from Seny Dieng and outwards into the midfield two. But they are not nearly the finished article yet.
MORE ADDITIONS NEEDED
The Rovers bench still looks a little light on bodies, despite the addition of Cole and the return of players from injury. But there remains a lack of different options, should Rovers be looking to chase the game or protect it.
With a couple of days of the transfer window left, Rovers could really do with getting deals over the line to make sure they are no caught short over the last few months of the season.