Waning fortunes, Josh Sims, depth and time not on their side - Talking points from Doncaster Rovers' defeat to Crewe Alexandra

Not a reality check but instead a gentle reminder that momentum in League One only counts when a side pushes it on rather than rides it through.

By Liam Hoden
Sunday, 25th October 2020, 11:00 am

A dip in performance, in ruthlessness and vigour from Doncaster Rovers saw their impressive run of form ended with a relative whimper against a developing Crewe Alexandra outfit.

Rovers had done everything they had needed to in order to beat Portsmouth and Ipswich Town over the previous week - and did more than enough in the latter.

But as they struggled to muster the same levels as their clash with Crewe wore on, they came up short.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Ben Whiteman slides a pass through. Picture: Howard Roe/AHPIX LTD

No one knows more than Darren Moore about where Rovers are on their development journey. But after Saturday a few people may have caught up.

STORY OF THE GAME

There was a familiarity about the pattern of Saturday’s game.

Rovers started a competitive affair strongly and were the better side heading into the break.

Josh Sims fires on goal. Picture: Howard Roe/AHPIX LTD

But after the opposition changed their approach in the second half, Rovers struggled for the inspiration they had shown in the opening half.

It looked to be going Rovers away when Josh Sims latched onto a well-weighted pass from Madger Gomes, shifted the ball and curled past Will Jaaskelainen, less than two minutes after Charlie Kirk had finished an excellent counterattack that put Crewe ahead.

They were the better side afterwards, up until the break.

Then they were presented with a challenge they struggled to unlock - despite still managing to forge very good chances.

Harry Pickering curls in a free kick to win the game for Crewe. Picture: Andrew Roe/AHPIX LTD

Joe Wright powered a header on goal which was blocked on the line. Fejiri Okenabirhie fired over and also failed to turn in from close range after meeting a fizzed low cross. And Tom Anderson drilled wide from the edge of the box.

But Crewe made their resilience and decent fortune count when Harry Pickering curled in a wonderful free kick 20 minutes from time.

Rovers pushed but couldn’t find a breakthrough and optimism they would waned with each passing minute.

CREDIT THE OPPOSITION

A shot from Madger Gomes. Picture: Andrew Roe/AHPIX LTD

Sometimes you cannot avoid praising the team that has played a role in you not getting something from a match.

And Crewe deserve a decent amount of credit for the part they played on Saturday.

Under threat from being overran, David Artell altered the approach at half time.

Rather than pushing up on Rovers as they did in the first half, they sat off and put plenty of bodies between the hosts and the goal.

It made for an incredibly congested half of the pitch and Rovers struggled to find ways through on a consistent basis. Faced with this, their efforts wilted as the half wore on.

Crewe had enough faith that they could strike on the counter and they did just that.

Questions will be asked as to why Rovers could not break them down, and rightly so.

But it was a decent afternoon’s work from the visitors.

Their constant protestations to the referee did not do them any harm either.

SIMS MAKES HIMSELF AT HOME

The impact of Sims on Rovers has been superb - and all in the space of a week.

Off the bench to set up the winner at Portsmouth, two assists and a contender for man of the match in the demolition of Ipswich and his first senior goal in English football on Saturday.

He looks so confident on the ball, and in his own abilities when running at defenders.

And there is quality at the end of his runs - which is not something you can guarantee with typical wingers in the third tier.

He looks a class above at times - probably because he is. Barring the severe knee injury not long after he made his initial impact at Southampton, he could be a Premier League regular now.

It will be a pleasure to see just what he can bring to Rovers over the next couple of months or so.

So far, so good.

SHORT ON NUMBERS - AGAIN

It did not take long for Rovers to go from having a plethora of options to very few.

The early injury to Jon Taylor forced the change, with Jason Lokilo thrown on less than ten minutes in.

And after James Coppinger’s introduction midway through the second half, there was no other game-changing option off the bench to help spark Rovers in attacking terms without a shift around of the team.

Taylor Richards’ injury proved as untimely as those of Rayhaan Tulloch and Tyreece John-Jules.

While the deadline day business bolstered Moore’s options, just over a week down the line he is not far away from seeing his squad at a bare bones level.

And with an incredibly busy period right the way through to Christmas, it is a slight concern - particularly as John-Jules and Tulloch appear nowhere near a return.

NO TIME TO WASTE

With the present demands of the fixture list, Rovers cannot really afford any players settling into the side or getting into the groove of playing matches.

The injury to Taylor proved that as his replacement Lokilo looked off the pace for much of his time on the pitch.

On the ball, he was fine and looked dangerous when carrying it at pace and cutting inside.

But out of possession he looked more than a little unsure of himself and where he needed to be whether to join an attack or cover in defence.

This is not an outright criticism of Lokilo, a player whose season was disrupted by injury and who has had to bide his time for opportunities since.

But it highlighted the loss of Taylor and impacted upon Rovers as a whole entity.

The two most recent signings have slotted in superbly while Okenabirhie has shaken off the rust he himself was showing and now looks incredibly confident.

That swift acclimatisation will be essential if anyone stepping into the side is to make a positive impression.