The Takeaway: Expecting a tea party, getting a knife fight - Feeble Doncaster Rovers falter again at Bristol Rovers

There was a moment in the second half when Taylor Richards was wiped out by one of those good old fashioned tackles you just do not see any more.

Monday, 5th April 2021, 8:34 pm

Even without supporters present at the Memorial Stadium, there was an incredible roar of appreciation for what Bristol Rovers’ Cian Harries had done.

And with his robust sliding challenge that saw Richards slowly and gingerly returning to his feet a few moments later, Harries had summed up an entire afternoon in one single act.

Doncaster Rovers were bullied and battered by their hosts over an uncomfortable 75 minute period that had rendered their own bright start entirely meaningless.

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Memorial Stadium

Having played well for a vibrant opening quarter of an hour and capped it with a fine opening goal from James Coppinger, Rovers suddenly found themselves in a battle for which they had no answer.

They had produced quick, incisive attacking football at a level they had not done in a while but the minute it got difficult, they vanished.

Rovers went flat to allow Bristol Rovers the opportunity to dictate the style of the game, with the wind playing a big part in making the affair even more scrappy.

And what the hosts brought to the table, Rovers had no stomach for.

It did not take crunching tackles like Harries’ for Joey Barton’s side to impose themselves on the contest. They just got in Rovers’ faces, used physicality and directness and were not scared to buy a few cheap fouls along the way.

And it turned out Rovers thought they were attending a tea party rather than a knife fight.

As frustrating as the failure to build on the bright start was, it paled into insignificance with the ire raised by the fact they looked so ill-prepared and impotent for the fight they should have known was coming.

After five straight defeats, Bristol Rovers’ situation in the League One relegation zone was dire. Fight was all the had left, and in Barton, they had the ideal general.

So quickly was the manner in which Rovers were bullied out of the game, it was as though they were not expecting it at all.

They wilted under pressure even before Barton’s men had pulled a goal back through Luke McCormick, who was allowed to stroll into the box without resistance.

And they were so feeble in the second half, there was never any shred of confidence that they had the stomach, never mind the quality, to get back on level terms after McCormick had doubled his tally.

The back four was a makeshift one with Brad Halliday and Joe Wright both injured, but it had little to no bearing on what really played out on this blustering Bank Holiday Monday afternoon.

Rovers are now incredibly mentally fragile. And watching them wilt yet again means there is next to no assurance that they have what it takes to alter their slide any time soon.

Concerning is the fact Rovers now face more battles against more sides scrapping for their lives who will have taken great heart from seeing the damage one of their relegation rivals inflicted by simply being more up for the fight.

Rovers, right now, do not look up for anything.

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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.