Saturday Night Takeaway: Huge opportunity slipping further out of their grasp as gun shy Doncaster Rovers slump at MK Dons
We’ve all done it. Had something in our grasp, felt it slipping through our fingers and no matter how frantic the efforts were to keep hold of it, watched it clatter to the floor and smash.
Right now Doncaster Rovers are in that frantic phase and growing ever more desperate in their attempts to stay clinging on to their increasingly fragile play-off push.
A narrow 1-0 defeat to an on-form side in this most topsy-turvy of seasons is not the biggest of concerns in isolation.
But this was not a game in isolation.
This was yet another occasion when Rovers looked a shadow of their former selves - a side brimming with bright attacking threat and energy. And, arguably even more significantly, the ability to control a game of football.
As they did on the opening day of the season, they gave up plenty of the ball to MK Dons. Unlike the opening day of the season, they lacked the glimpses of quality they needed to get something out of the game.
It was thanks to young goalkeeper Louis Jones that MK Dons were not out of sight at half time. A string of superb stops and blocks from the keeper gave them a fighting chance.
It took unfortunate circumstances for the 22-year-old to be beaten, when a nick off Joe Wright’s head took Daniel Harvie’s powerful drive away from Jones’ hands and hit the back of the net for the decisive goal.
Rovers however cannot point to ill fortune for their defeat at stadium:MK.
Instead the finger of blame is pointed straight at their own lack of threat as they consistently failed to test their grateful hosts.
There was a flatfootedness about play at times and a tremendous lack of ideas once they reached the final third, particularly in the first half when Russell Martin’s side looked in control.
It played into the hands of Martin’s organised Milton Keynes side that got plenty of players back and only made it more difficult for Rovers to play around them.
Frustrating was the fact the game opened up significantly in the second half. Had Rovers had that killer touch and drive, the game was there for the taking.
But there was also a major lack of risk-taking in advanced areas. Players who could typically be relied upon to take the game by the scruff of the neck, or look to produce something special of their own seemed to wilt as the pressure of trying to make something happen grew upon them.
Omar Bogle in the week pointed to a lack of confidence and belief in the camp. And if evidence was needed to back up the striker’s assertion, it was clearly there on the pitch.
The mindset is not where it needs to be for a side aiming to keep their noses ahead in what is an increasingly packed field chasing the top six finishing line.
A change of system or style of play would not cure these ails - though you wonder if an alteration would impact on the mindset even slightly.
This result saw Rovers drop out of the top six for the first time in two months.
And right now confidence in them getting their hands back on the prize is only diminishing.