The Breakdown: Doncaster Rovers 1 Wigan Athletic 4

It seems that everyone recognises the urgency of Doncaster Rovers’ situation except those who need to acknowledge it the most.

Sunday, 11th April 2021, 10:00 am
Updated Sunday, 11th April 2021, 10:11 am

Yet again the effort and application of the Rovers players is under question following their performance in the bitterly disappointing 4-1 defeat to Wigan Athletic.

Their relegation-threatened visitors demonstrated greater energy and endeavour to deservedly emerge the victors.

They took advantage of woefully brittle defending to score four goals - equalling the amount they netted in their previous six matches.

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Jason Lokilo sees Doncaster Rovers' best chance of the afternoon blocked out by Wigan keeper Jamie Jones. Picture: Andrew Roe/AHPIX
Jason Lokilo sees Doncaster Rovers' best chance of the afternoon blocked out by Wigan keeper Jamie Jones. Picture: Andrew Roe/AHPIX

And Rovers could have no argument that the outcome should have been different. They simply did not work hard enough to earn any more than they got.

By failing to deal with a pair of crosses into the box that could hardly be termed incisive, they found themselves 2-0 down inside 15 minutes, netted by Joe Dodoo and Thelo Aasgaard.

The response from Rovers was decidedly lacking. Work off the ball - whether the side was in possession or not - was just not good enough.

And with that comes the growing doubts about the commitment from certain players to find a way of dragging themselves out of their current predicament. But also about their commitment to Rovers as a whole.

A two minute silence in memory of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was held before the game. Picture: Howard Roe/AHPIX

The real effort to find spaces, to give teammates a potential option to play the ball, was lacking throughout the game.

That made life all so simple for Wigan, particularly when Viv Solomon-Otabor finished off a fine passing move that left Rovers chasing shadows just after the half hour mark.

Andy Butler responded with a double switch after 38 minutes, sending on Taylor Richards and John Bostock.

And there was the faint hope of a comeback when Richards curled in an excellent finish in first half stoppage time.

Wigan celebrate their third goal. Picture: Andrew Roe/AHPIX

But despite a brighter spell at the start of the second, Rovers could not force their way back into the game, with Will Keane then putting it to bed after a rapid Wigan counter.

Defeat was another considerable blow to Rovers’ top six hopes. But right now there are bigger concerns.

PENNY DROPPED, PENNY LOST

Butler said he thought the penny had dropped for his side in the aftermath of the defeat to Bristol Rovers.

There was always the danger that such a statement would come back to haunt the Rovers boss, and so it proved.

But after the game he stood by his declaration, saying his players had indeed shown fresh focus and energy in training throughout the week.

The main issue, from the perspective of Butler, was that they failed to carry it into the match scenario.

“In training you see a group of players that are bright and bubbly and doing everything that you’ve asked of them,” he said.

“Then for whatever reason, it goes back to the mindset, why can you not transfer that onto the pitch from the training pitch.

“It’s something we have to address. It’s frustrating as a manager to see a side of the player that does all the work, does all the hard bits and does all the extras.

“Then it just does not come onto the pitch.”

Butler saw one thing in training and expected that to appear on the pitch on Saturday.

It did not. And dare say he will not be so quick to make such an assumption in the future.

SELECTION ISSUES

Injury issues have blighted Butler’s spell as Rovers manager and it was no different here.

Brad Halliday remained sidelined, which saw Joe Wright named at right back. James Coppinger too was absent, while a concussion took out Reece James during the game.

Butler was able to call upon Josh Sims in a bid to provide the pace Rovers have sorely lacked in recent weeks.

In the middle of the park he opted for resolve and no frills over creativity in selecting a trio of James, Matt Smith and Scott Robertson.

It did not work, for a variety of reasons. Sims continues to look way off the pace, as does Robertson, whose loan to Rovers looks set to go down as an unsuccessful one.

Butler was justified in making the double switch before the break - though it did open him up to suggestions that he got it wrong in the first place.

What the Rovers boss is crying out for is a settled team. But form and effort is playing as big a role as fitness in preventing him from doing that.

TIME TO GIVE UP?

Amazingly, despite another terrible defeat, Rovers did not lose that much ground on the top six.

Lincoln City and Blackpool battled out a 2-2 draw while Portsmouth lost, leaving Rovers six points off the play-offs while still holding at least one game in hand on each of the sides between them and sixth.

One issue against them is that they need to leapfrog five teams to get back into the play-off positions. And that is before you begin to consider the desperate need to arrest the current slide.

Rovers have eight matches remaining. Winning half of those is probably not going to be enough to make the play-offs.

Six wins would put them on 75 points and missing out on the top six with that total would be unfortunate.

Arguably, in the first instance at least, it would almost be worthwhile discounting the possibility of extending the season at this stage and focus on playing for pride.

But the prospect of a top six finish remains, however unlikely it may seem.

UP NEXT

Rovers will host a Burton Albion side on Tuesday night that appeared to be heading in only one direction after the reverse fixture in December.

Since then, Burton have appointed Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and have won 11 of their last 17 matches to put a ten point cushion between themselves and the relegation zone.

The Brewers have won their last two, including a 2-1 triumph at Portsmouth on Saturday and will fancy their chances of taking something away from the Keepmoat.

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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.