Richie Wellens' delight at Doncaster Rovers' performance against Newcastle United
Richie Wellens was delighted with Doncaster Rovers’ performance against Newcastle United given the disruption his squad has experienced over the last fortnight.
Those senior players who have been in isolation due to contact with a case of Covid-19 returned on the day of the game but were excellent against a strong Newcastle side.
Goals from Tommy Rowe and Omar Bogle saw Rovers push Steve Bruce’s side all the way in a 3-2 defeat.
And while Wellens was disappointed with the defeat, he was impressed with the showing from his side.
“I’m happy with everything that I saw,” he said.
“The only thing I wasn’t happy with was the result because we have a winning mentality.
“We went toe to toe with them and we were open and we played our game.
“We’ve got players who have been self isolating for the last ten days so they need fitness and I wanted to get sprint distances into them, which we certainly got.
“From six or seven minutes to about 25 minutes, we just backed off them a bit but I thought from 25 minutes to half time we were the better side.
“There are so many positives to come from the game. If you take into account that we had two trialists starting and six of the starting XI were self-isolating for the last ten days and have done hardly anything.
“I think Ben Close, Matt Smith and Tommy Rowe were three of the best players on the pitch.
“You saw the movement from Jordy Hiwula. Even though he’s lacking fitness, I think you saw a threat there.
“All in all, I was really pleased with the evening for everyone.”
Wellens was determined to set his side out to attack against the Magpies in order to encourage the relationships in possession that have been difficult to forge due to the recent disruption.
“It would have been quite easy to go 4-5-1 and stifle the space in behind because we know the pace they have got,” he said.
“I wanted to see where we’re at.
“We’ve probably had 12 training sessions with the full squad.
“And out of that 12, we’ve had two where we’ve worked on team shape and patterns of play with the ball.
“We knew they’d be a threat in transition but we haven’t really worked on that.
“If that was a league game and we were playing against two fliers, our full backs would come in and cover the two centre halves.
“But I wanted both full backs to go, I wanted us to be expansive and show how good we are. I thought we showed that.
“In my thinking, that’s our first pre-season friendly. We’ve had a couple of warm-up games against non-league sides and the Bradford game was nothing in the circumstances because of what it was.
“I think every Doncaster supporters can leave seeing there are some really good signs.”
Newcastle netted through Ryan Fraser, Sean Longstaff and Callum Wilson as Bruce named a strong side at the Keepmoat.