Saturday Night Takeaway: An important performance and an important point made as Doncaster Rovers draw at Gillingham

Performances can be more important than results at times - and this was one of them.

Saturday, 20th March 2021, 6:37 pm

Granted, coming away with a draw against one of the sides desperately attempting to claw back ground to you makes appreciating the manner in which it was done much easier.

As does the fact the result ensured they remained fifth in League One.

But given the concerns about the direction Doncaster Rovers’ performances were trending in as they boarded the bus to Kent, the way they earned their point at Gillingham was very important indeed.

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Rovers block a free kick from Gillingham. Picture: Howard Roe/AHPIX

This was a side that wilted so disappointingly after falling behind at Oxford United in midweek, that seemed woefully short of confidence.

So when they found themselves 2-0 down inside four minutes and having barely touched the ball at that point, you could have been forgiven for fearing the worst.

Yet, they showed excellent composure and barely looked flustered by the situation at all. And they found a rhythm to their play against a physical and disruptive opposition to not only fight their way back into the contest but threaten to take full control of it before half time.

After the break was much tougher as they felt the full force of the Gillingham bombardment.

But they stood up to it well, and barring a moment of fright where the woodwork and a stunning Joe Wright block saved them, they proved incredibly resilient.

The situation had not quite reached must-win territory for Rovers. There are still far too many points up for grabs for that to be the case.

But there was certainly an element of the probably-should-not-lose as Gillingham were those leading the charge of those clawing at Rovers’ cushion in the top six positions.

For the first time in a couple of weeks, the fear of defeat was minimal heading into the later stages.

They definitely should have defended much better in those opening four minutes of madness when they gifted two poor goals to the opposition. The issue of individual errors has not been eradicated entirely.

Jordan Graham fired Gillingham ahead two minutes in after a catalogue of mistakes from the Rovers defence while Vadaine Oliver volleyed in all too easily moments later.

Rovers could have used the ball better after the break to reduce the pressure - although doing so against an outfit as relentless as Gillingham on their turf is a difficult task.

But they did use the ball really well in the first half, almost instantly after finding themselves two down.

They got back to the front foot, quick tempo of the early days of Andy Butler’s reign while adding a necessary streak of directness to their play.

The returning Omar Bogle was big, bringing presence in the final third that Rovers have sorely missed, and someone to target, while fellow returnee Reece James freed up Matt Smith to show his influence in the middle of the park.

It felt like they were on an upward curve when Tom Anderson powered in a header from a James Coppinger cross, before the veteran took centre stage himself with an accurate finish to equalise after great work down the left.

It felt like Rovers were closer to being themselves. And with so much still to play for, that is as pleasing as a result.

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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.