The selection posers and problems facing Andy Butler ahead of vital Charlton clash
Andy Butler has some big calls to make as Doncaster Rovers bid to reignite their season in tomorrow’s televised clash with Charlton Athletic.
Confidence and morale has taken a huge hit following a run of just two wins in 12 games which has seen Rovers drop out of the top six.
It’s now a situation that would be difficult for even the most experienced of managers let alone a rookie boss.
Butler must find a way to get that spark back – so what should he do? We’ve taken a look at the key selection issues he faces, all over the pitch.
Goalkeeper Louis Jones performed admirably in the 1-0 defeat at MK Dons so will almost certainly retain his place but ahead of him things are much less straightforward.
Rovers have kept one clean sheet and conceded 24 goals in their last 13 games. They conceded 21 goals in the previous 22 games.
They’ve become far less dominant in the air and too easy to get at down the sides. Butler’s physicality and leadership skills have also been missed.
There’s a school of thought that Tom Anderson is not as effective playing out from the back from the left-sided centre back position – so there is a strong argument to give Cameron John a chance in his natural position at the expense of Joe Wright.
Wright could potentially move to right back which would free up Brad Halliday, who’s had a tough time recently, to either play further forward or take a breather.
Youngster Branden Horton has certainly not disgraced himself but, with Matt Smith and John Bostock both likely to be available, Reece James may revert to left back.
This is assuming Butler sticks with a back four.
Would he have the courage to rip things up and play a back three of Wright, Anderson and John, utilising Halliday and James as wing backs?
In the absence of first choice wingers Jon Taylor and Josh Sims, it’s an option that would seem to have its merits.
Who is the playmaker in this Rovers team?
Is it Bostock in a 4-1-4-1? Is it Smith in a 4-1-4-1? Or both of them in a 4-2-3-1?
Bostock has certainly shown his ability on the ball but he is yet to dictate a game in the way Ben Whiteman did.
Smith has influenced games more but is the Manchester City youngster now starting to show signs of fatigue?
The midfield is just not clicking like it was earlier in the season and Butler needs to find the right combination in there before it’s too late.
It’s a tricky call.
Do Rovers really need the two midfield sitters, or should Bostock or Smith play more advanced?
Would having Scott Robertson in there with them help to gain more of a grip on the game?
Rovers really hit their stride this season when James was playing in the middle so should he retain his place in the middle?
Further up the pitch how do you accommodate James Copinger and Taylor Richards, who are both best employed centrally?
And, if Butler does indeed stick with 4-2-3-1, who gets the nod out wide?
Jason Lokilo has flattered to deceive somewhat, Fejiri Okenabirhie has blown hot and cold from a wide position and loanee Elliot Simoes has been poor.
Another option is James on the wing with Horton retaining his place at left back.
Are Rovers getting the best out of Omar Bogle right now? Most definitely not.
The former Charlton man, who will be eager to impress against his former club tomorrow, has been completely isolated and starved of chances of late.
Failing to score in four of the last five matches tells its own story – and it’s not all about the decision-making or delivery in the final third.
Rovers simply must get people closer to Bogle and, when the opportunities arise, get more bodies in the box.
Without Taylor and Sims they no longer have the blistering pace to break quickly on teams or get behind them so they must look to feed off Bogle’s hold-up play, get runners off him and reignite their intricate play in between the lines.
Many fans would like to see Bogle and Okenabirhie play as a front two, either in a 4-4-2 or the suggested 5-3-2, and on paper it looks like a handy pairing.
It would be a bold call from Butler to change the system but Rovers have arguably reached a point where they need to try something a little different.