The Takeaway: Woeful lack of threat sees Doncaster Rovers continue to toil with defeat to play-off rivals Charlton Athletic

Different game, different system, same problem.

Friday, 2nd April 2021, 7:12 pm

Crippled by a woeful lack of attacking threat, Doncaster Rovers slipped to a 1-0 defeat to Charlton Athletic that saw them drop further towards the rear of the League One play-off race.

A sixth game without victory, this was the fifth time in that run that they have failed to find the net - a stat that would have been unimaginable for a side that not too long ago was one of the division’s top scorers.

And they showed no signs of altering their recent record in another performance that had promise everywhere but the final 20 yards of the pitch.

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Fejiri Okenabirhie sends a tame effort towards goal against Charlton. Picture: Howard Roe/AHPIX

In his bid to bring about an improvement in fortunes, Andy Butler tweaked his formation, moving a midfielder out from the sitting position and further up the pitch.

While there was a greater fluidity through the middle of the park than there has been in recent matches, there was a continuation of the absence of quality and bravery in the final third that has blighted Rovers for much of the last month.

The final ball into the box was consistently poor. And on the rare occasion it did find someone in red and white, the decision-making was exceptionally disappointing.

Play in the final third now appears to come with a real absence of instinct and far too much thought.

Where previously shots would be taken early and the opportunity for a clear route to goal seized upon, now there is hesitancy which plays directly in opposition hands.

It is an affliction that only grows worse with each passing game, as the need to deliver a positive result gets more desperate.

Drawing considerable frustration is the fact this was yet another game there for the taking.

Charlton did not need to be anything more than competent at their pressing game to come away with the victory after Ian Maatsen put them ahead on 12 minutes.

The Chelsea youngster had been gifted the opportunity, when a direct ball forward had not been dealt with and he got in ahead of Reece James to finish.

After conceding an error-strewn goal, the Rovers defence were not presented with much to seriously trouble them over the remaining 80 minutes.

And Rovers saw enough of the ball to at least get themselves back on level terms - if they had made their attacking play count.

These are the fine margins which Butler and his players speak of. They are not being blown away in matches, they are losing narrowly.

But the metaphorical margins are not genuinely narrow ones at this stage, simply because Rovers are not nearly threatening enough in these matches to give the opposition true concern.

Rovers ended Good Friday sitting tenth in League One. Even worse than that, their play-off hopes are no longer in their own hands.

Victory in games in hand would not take them above the sides currently occupying the top six places.

Having had a huge margin for error over the past two months, now they cannot afford barely any slip-ups if they have a realistic chance of extending their season.

The problem needs solving. And solving fast.

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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.