The Breakdown: Shrewsbury Town 0 Doncaster Rovers 2

Just when you think they’re out of it, they pull themselves back in.

Sunday, 18th April 2021, 10:35 am

The film that line is so sloppily ripped from was sharing a lot of similarities with Doncaster Rovers’ season. Promising, entertaining in parts but ultimately a big let down.

But like tired protagonist Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part III, we have all been pulled right back in.

One win was all it took for Rovers to be right back in the play-off picture. Even after five successive defeats, even after losing 11 of their previous 16 matches.

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Taylor Richards

After the 2-0 triumph at Shrewsbury Town they sit five points off the play-off places with six games to go and at least one game in hand over all bar one of the sides standing in their way.

It is a long shot, but Rovers are back in there.

And they are back in with a fresh dose of confidence and belief. And for the first time in a very long time they have felt the enjoyment factor return.

They were not perfect against Shrewsbury by any means but they were a hell of a lot closer to it than they have been over the last two months.

Andy Butler

Most pleasing was the absence of fear and timidness. They did not play with the weight of the world on their shoulders, nor was there any questions over effort and application.

It was an energetic, hard-working performance coupled with two moments of quality to give them a deserved triumph.

They pulled themselves back in - due to Don Butler’s handy work.

THE NON-NEGOTIABLES

Andy Butler has used the term above so many times over the last six weeks that he must be sick to the back teeth of it.

But he was proved right in his persistence with trying to hammer it home to his players - as this performance proved.

The biggest non-negotiable was hard work. Unfortunately on too many occasions recently there was not nearly enough of it.

On this occasion they at least matched the workrate of the opposition, who battled and pressed and harried throughout.

They competed well for the 50-50s, chased balls down and forced errors.

Both goals scored were excellent finishes. But both were made by pure hard work and determination.

First, 15 minutes in, Ethan Ebanks-Landell sold Ro-Shaun Williams short with a pass but Fejiri Okenabirhie raced in to intercept before going clear and powering a finish beyond Matija Sarkic in the Shrewsbury goal.

And with nine minutes left on the clock, Taylor Richards pounced on dallying at the back to nick the ball away before Okenabirhie beat Ebanks-Landell to the ball to poke it through for Richards to smash into the roof of the net.

The goals typified the hard work shown by Rovers on the day. And with the results in his hand, Butler can justifiably say ‘I told you so.’

A LEADER ON THE PITCH

Butler’s decision to name himself in the starting XI was a potentially controversial one. It was also a gamble.

If things would have gone wrong it would have been another stick to beat him with - taking his eyes off his current primary role.

But Butler is as assured as they come and would have had real faith in his ability to do both.

It was a decision that paid off, big time.

He brought his vast experience to reignite his partnership with Tom Anderson and produce a very solid defensive performance.

But he also showed tremendous leadership to guide his players around the pitch, keep them switched on, motivated and on-task.

It was about as hands on as you could get as a manager.

Butler also highlighted something that Rovers have been lacking for a good while - maybe even since the Grant McCann era.

The wily old fox is adept at conceding cheap little fouls on half way to prevent counterattacks or stop danger before it has started.

He brought a bit of an edge, a bit of meanness and a streak of street smarts that Rovers do not have nearly enough of to get them through the rigours of a League One season.

One to note for the summer of recruitment.

THE RICHARDS RIDDLE

There was a point in the first half when Richards raced to close down a defender, who just managed to hook the ball away in time before the Brighton loanee nicked if off him.

It brought a guttural roar of frustration from Richards, such was his desperation to win the ball.

And that summed up an afternoon of full commitment and determination from the 20-year-old. One where he looked back on the road to being the player that excited so much before the turn of the year.

“You see Taylor Richards running up and down,” Butler said after the game. “A lot of people question him but when you get Taylor firing with his attitude and his desire, he is one hell of a player.

“You see him with his finish.”

It was precisely the in-your-face, grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck performance Rovers are going to need more of if they are to trouble the top six.

And it is exactly what Richards needs to replicate more often if he is going to fulfil his tremendous potential.

UP NEXT

Rovers face a trip to Accrington Stanley on Tuesday as they look to keep those play-off hopes alive.

Stanley themselves may have just been booted out of last chance saloon with their own top six aspirations, having been beaten 3-1 by relegation threatened Rochdale on Saturday.

The result left them seven points off sixth spot but without a decent number of games in hand to give them real hope.

John Coleman’s side have won three in 19, including their triumph at the Keepmoat in February.

Rovers have not won in Accrington since 1947 and have lost their last three visits.

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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.