One of the reasons why Doncaster Rovers play better away – and you may not like it: Liam Hoden column

It is time to address the elephant in the room - or the herd of them making an unwelcome racket in the stadium to be specific.

Thursday, 13th February 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Thursday, 13th February 2020, 5:17 pm

There is often an atmosphere in the ground that is bizarre and unfathomable, certainly unhelpful, at times toxic.

Before launching into the criticism I am about to deliver, I must point out that my experience of the Keepmoat purely comes from sitting in the press box in the middle of the west stand.

And not for one minute would I suggest that everyone is partaking in the behaviour I will refer to.

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Rovers in action at the Keepmoat
Rovers in action at the Keepmoat

But there is a genuine issue that had me scratching my head yet again on Tuesday night.

The swiftness with which certain sections of the ground get on the backs of individual players and the team as a whole is strange at best.

And I think it is safe to say that it had an impact then, as it has before.

The most startling incident of this came in the clash with Accrington Stanley at the Keepmoat last season.

Rovers were on the brink of securing a place in the play-offs - certainly they were firmly in the driving seat to do so.

Yet, when things were not going their way in that game, some supporters turned.

Wandering into the ground without prior knowledge, you would have assumed Rovers were slumping towards relegation. I couldn’t remember such a reaction when Rovers were doing that just three years prior.

In almost every game this season there have been incidents of it - no matter how well Rovers are faring.

If someone dares to turn and play a backwards pass, they are greeted with impatient groans, even when there was nothing on ahead of them.

And it flared up again on Tuesday against Bolton.

Frustration was understandable with the incident which led to Bolton’s goal.

Rovers have put themselves under pressure on countless occasions this season by playing out from the back with mixed success.

Seeing them punished when there were other, more crude but effective options there for them, was indeed frustrating.

But it seemed to put plenty of people in a funk and they berated Rovers for every error and every time they paused in possession.

Rovers, a team that was winning the football match, heading for a sixth win in their last ten matches.

And that win put them eighth in the table.

And two points off the play-offs.

Unfathomable.

Ben Sheaf has found himself in the position of whipping boy in chief. And with each passing game, as he continues his development, that status gets all the more baffling.

On Tuesday against Bolton he was excellent in the first half. He pushed high up the pitch, linked up play around the Bolton box and tidied up nicely in midfield.

Towards the end of the half, he attempted to spray a ball out wide to Kieran Sadlier but saw it cut out by the full back - an action which drew a very loud angry and frustrated groan.

It was the first mistake he had made in what had been an excellent performance. Other players that had misplaced less ambitious passes were not met with the same treatment.

Sheaf was then the main recipient of moans and groans during Rovers’ tricky spell in the second half, admittedly after he had played a role in Bolton’s goal.

It was no coincidence though that he made more mistakes.

And it was no coincidence that his teammates did also.

It seems contradictory to say the behaviour and attitude of supporters is having a negative effect on the team. It certainly should be contradictory.

I am no one to tell supporters how to behave or what to think. You pay your money to watch your team and, within reason, have the right to vocalise your feelings as you see fit.

But I just find the attitude sometimes baffling, frustrating and disappointing.

More patience and encouragement would make a real difference, in the same way the opposite does.

Plenty has been said about Rovers being more effective on the road than at the Keepmoat.

It may very well be because home comforts aren’t actually that comfortable at all.