The Breakdown: Doncaster Rovers 0 Fleetwood Town 1

At full time, Andy Butler stood with hands on hips and head bowed.

Sunday, 25th April 2021, 10:00 am

Around him, his teammates, his players, trudged around and shook hands with the opposition in the typical post-match show of platitudes.

Butler barely moved for a good minute, in a picture of pure disappointment and devastation.

Another disastrous day in what has proven to be a catastrophic period as manager of his hometown club.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Andy Butler shows his disappointment after the defeat to Fleetwood Town. Picture: Howard Roe/AHPIX

The dream that turned sour.

When Butler says no stone has been left unturned, he is not merely throwing out soundbites. The fact he has played the entirety of the last three matches having not trained for seven weeks is reflective of the lengths he is going to in order to get things right at Rovers.

But, unfortunately, Butler has been unable to coerce barely a hint of a tune out of a squad who - collectively and in most cases individually - should feel thoroughly ashamed of their efforts for the last eight weeks.

Whether they do or not is another matter entirely.

James Coppinger battls with Fleetwood's Sam Finley. Picture: Andrew Roe/AHPIX

They certainly should in the aftermath of Saturday’s feckless performance which saw them slip to a ninth defeat in 12 matches. One that sees a side who had a genuine shot at automatic promotion now fighting to simply finish in the top half of the division.

Organised and professional visitors Fleetwood Town barely needed to get out of second gear to beat a feeble Rovers side that offered next to no tangible threat.

There is shooting blanks and then there is not even bothering to bring the gun.

Fleetwood boss Simon Grayson said afterwards that his only disappointment on the day was the fact his side did not win by more.

Joe Wright looks to contain Fleetwood goalscorer Barrie McKay. Picture: Andrew Roe/AHPIX

They did not need to. When Barrie McKay strolled through the defence and finished from a silly angle with 51 minutes on the clock, Rovers were dead and buried even if the scoreline might not have suggested it.

Another sorry, sorry day.


Rovers began the game looking after the ball better than they had done for a long time.

Josh Sims looks to turn past Fleetwood's James Hill. Picture: Andrew Roe/AHPIX

The disappointing thing was that possession was all too sterile to make it truly worthwhile.

And much of that was down to a tremendous lack of movement in attacking areas.

There were spaces out on the pitch to exploit - ones that did not need any noteworthy levels of nous to uncover.

Instead, players waited for the ball to come to them, which made life very easy indeed for a switched on Fleetwood side that cut out passes or muscled the opposition out of the way.

Fejiri Okenabirhie - playing off the right - tried, and took up some decent spaces at times but quickly found a lack of options to move the ball on further and was regularly crowded out.

Tyreece John-Jules was eager to get on the ball but ended up dropping deep to make himself available, taking himself away from the area of the pitch where he really needed to be.

The less said about the other attacking options the better. At best, flat-footed and lethargic. At worst, hiding.


“The players are trying but they’re just not executing it,” Butler said afterwards. “Whether that’s a lack of confidence due to the run of results we’re on.

“It’s difficult because there are spaces on the pitch but sometimes players get caught up in too many thoughts during a game.

“Football is a simple game. You find spaces and you play in them.

“Teams do it to us. They turn the ball in behind because there are spaces there and they get up the pitch.

“We like to play through the thirds to get up the pitch. But you need to work hard and it comes down to hard work in games.

“If you don’t work hard on and off the ball then you won’t get results.”


The lack of attacking options at Rovers’ disposal has been a shortcoming for some time, long before this current horrendous run of form.

Injuries have played a part, it must be acknowledged.

But when searching for inspiration off the bench, a blank is regularly drawn.

The lack of depth in attack is something that must be addressed over a summer in which a major overhaul is now due, led by an as-yet-unknown figure.

James Coppinger tried as he might when he came on during the second half but Rovers’ chief craftsman had little to work with.

John Bostock had been sent on at half time to get Rovers moving but he just could not get going himself in a thoroughly disappointing personal performance.

The issue he was meant to remedy - the two sitting midfielders dropping far too deep - actually worsened with his presence and the quality on the ball he evidently has was decidedly lacking.

It highlighted further that no one is making a difference in meek attempts to pull Rovers out of a run where they have mustered only eight goals in 12 matches, with half of that tally coming in only two games.


Only the small matter of a trip to a side eyeing the League One title after moving within a whisker of confirming their return to the Championship.

A side that has won five of their last seven matches. A side that comfortably has the best home record in the division, including far and away the most goals scored on their own turf.

Yes, Rovers somehow have to pick themselves up sufficiently to taken on a rampant Peterborough United side at London Road.

Darren Ferguson’s side are all but promoted following their win at Charlton Athletic on Saturday, which left them needing just one more win to get the job done.

With all due respect, Posh will be licking their lips at the prospect of a visit from this Rovers side.


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.