Rovers Diary

Doncaster Rovers Diary

That will teach me.  Same old failings.  Play decent, go 1-0 up and concede within 60 seconds.  1-1 into injury time and we buckle and concede a dreadful goal to snatch defeat from a game we did enough in to win.

Keeper Ian Lawlor limps off with an ankle injury and his replacement Marosi is left horribly exposed as he watches a tame shot slip passed him to give the visitors al the points.

At the heart of it is a lack of concentration and desire.  Desire to see the game out, desire to win the ball, desire to do the ugly stuff.  Tommy Rowe has a great evening going forward but manages to miss an open goal and forget he’s supposed to defend as well as go forward.  Still, at least this meant both he an Mason had a great view of the Shrews equaliser, both stood and admired the full backs run and finish without thinking about making a tackle.

Afterwards Ferguson describes both goals as ‘Unacceptable’  if only there was someone around to kick the players up the arse and tell them this fact.  Its only about the 5th time this season it’s happened.  clearly the diamond formation he insists on implementing every week does not work.  We do not have the tactical nous nor the players to carry it out, yet the manager remains blinkered in his approach.  1 step forward, 2 back.

23rd September 2017

My god, Plymouth are poor.  Not just because we beat them but genuinely they are lacking in lots of areas.  The first half of this was lacking in lots of ways too, the ability for either team to pass the ball being one, but we went in at half time 1 up thanks to Andy Butlers ample sized head.

The second 45 gets better as Marquis reacts first to add a second before May finishes off a nice move and unbelievable we’ve scored 3 (T-H-R-E-E).  Maybe we’ve turned a corner?  Next up is unbeaten league leaders Shrewsbury at home.  Don’t tell us but for some reason, really dep down, I fancy us to win on Tuesday.

20th September 2017

This could go two ways, and when the Arsenal team sheet arrives, featuring Wilshire, Walcott and Alexis Sanchez amongst others, that way looks pretty clear.  Not so though as it turns out.  We are compact and decent, despite riding our luck at times we are still very much in it as full time approaches, 1-0 to Arsenal and Matty Blair loops a header goalwards.  It hits the post, goes over and we get beat, but its defeat covered in respect and potential.  Even Arsene Wenger says we played well and all in all a good day.  Hopefully the spirit generated by such an encouraging evening will transfer to the real task this week.  Away at Plymouth on Saturday.

17th September 2017

Tommy Rowe isn’t injured anymore.  He plays the full 90 minutes against Scunthorpe suggesting maybe he wasn’t injured after all?  Maybe all is not well behind the scenes.

All’s pretty crap in front of them and on the pitch too – we get beat 1-0 at home to Scunny.  A well organised and solid away side go 1-0 early on and we cannot score.  Its becoming monotonous and frustrating but once again our lack of goals, and any sort of attacking edge cost us.

Jordan Houghton is the latest absentee and he’s not even in the squad.  Perhaps he’s got a touch of the Tommy Rowe’s.

Something has to change and quickly.  I reckon he’s got to address the midfield, even if it means (god forbid) ditching the diamond formation that we are so ill-equipped to play.

14th September 2017

apparently Tommy Rowe is injured and will miss Sundays game against Scunthorpe and Wednesdays ‘crunch’ league cup tie against Arsenal.  Some knock, strain or blow (most likely to his ego courtesy of a string of crap displays) means he’s out for a while.  Interesting to see if he changes formation or just hammers another round peg into a diamond-shaped hole.

12th September 2017

After a bad result, it’s often said that having a game a couple of days later is perfect.  It’s a great chance to put things right straight away.
Hmm.  The manager made another 5 or so changes to personnel and changed the formation from Saturday where things went so poorly.  I understand the thinking, I used to do the same thing on Championship manager 96 when I took over a team from Belgium and didn’t know any of the players.  I had to arse about with the team every week until I got to know the best 11.  Not too sure the same sentiment works for the third tier of professional football in England.
One of the changes was the introduction on Issam Ben Khemis, who the manager made such big noises about in preseason following a decent performance against Tadcaster Albion, in midfield.  Things again went belly up, we conceded (but saved) a penalty early on and were generally crap all over.  Just after the half hour Ben Khemis was subbed for tactical reasons (being crap) which Darren Ferguson would later take the blame for saying maybe his senior debut had come too early.  Good job you gave him a two-year contract then Darren, he doesn’t need to rush.
Things got a bit better with the introduction of Matty Blair in his place and with 15 minutes left we scored, John Marquis scrambling home from a corner.  The clock ticked to 90, then 92 minutes and we were still ahead.  Then the knees started to shake, decision-making went out of the window and we curled up into a ball and lost 2-1.  So unbelievable that I’ts, well, totally believable.
The best thing to come out of it was the insightful post-match evaluation from Ferguson “the two late goals have changed the game.”  Glad I shell out a fiver a month for my ifollow subscription, wouldn’t have liked to miss penetrating assessment as that.
We are now officially on a bad run, but don’t worry – the manager has a track record of turning such things around. Wait… what?

9th September 2017

Another game another weekend and another change to formation and personnel.  The diamond was back again with Rowe and Kongogla either side of Whiteman and Mandeville at its tip.  Last week was ok, and boosted by the introduction of Houghton but of the three changes made he was not one of them and remained on the bench.  I was, as I’m sure lots were, surprised to see Toffolo, (in at left-wing back) Kongolo and Mandeville brought in.  Alfie May has not done enough wrong to immediately put his place under threat and likewise most of our guile has come via James Coppinger so again, despite his advancing years, his omission was a surprise.
It started pretty badly.  Inside 20 seconds our penchant to acquiesce in midfield was once again evident three Northampton players ran through with conviction that there midfield markers could not muster and we were up against it.
The back three were too far apart, the wing backs too advanced and the midfield diamond absent.  It got a bit better in the second half with the introduction of Coppinger and accompanying re working but we got what we deserved.  6 points from 6 games and an encouraging start seems to be evaporating.

After the game the manager spoke of too many players who are out of form and on Coppinger, a need to manage his game time in order to preserve his legs.  Fair enough, but we’re only 6 games in.  I’d much rather see him start, win the game then take him off after an hour.  Something tells me our problems run deeper than something Copps can fix on his own.

4th September 2017

I wrote a piece for the website prior to the game with Peterborough pointing out the number of goals which originated from ‘deficiencies’ on our midfield diamond and a lack of bite and aggression in there.  I am choosing to assume that Darren Ferguson read my concerns pre match because when the teams lined up for kick off he had changed the shape to firm up the central area and post-match he spoke of a need for more aggression in there himself.
It worked, in as much as we did not concede though in truth we struggled to create much ourselves but had a couple of openings, one of which was spurned by John Marquis, a snap shot from 10 yards out.  0-0 and a point is probably about right but it was against a team who had won every game before today and the re-introduction of Jordan Houghton as a second half sub added some control in central areas and he seemed to move up  the pitch more effectively and competently than in recent weeks.  Some improvement, but still a bit toothless going forward.

31st August 2017

Deadline day.

Terrible news comes out of the club that full back Danny Andrew has done his cruciate and will be out for the season.  A terrible blow for a player who had just joined in pre season and had looked like a competent defender and therefore immediately shining.  Rovers are forced to act and immediately sign Harry Toffolo on loan from Norwich.  He’s 22, 6ft tall and played 22 times on loan at Scunny in this league last year.  On the face of it looks a decent, versatile signing.

Also coming in is midfielder Jordan Houghton who rejoins on loan from Chelsea.  He made a big contribution last season in central midfield and it wasn’t until he was injured that his contribution to controlling games became sharply clear.  If he’s fit, and inclined to move the ball quicker, he could be a very good addition.  He has made such progress on his journey back to fitness Ferguson states he may start on Saturday.  I reckon the bench is more likely but it won’t be long until he is parked in central midfield once more.

The biggest surprise of deadline day appears to be the rumour that lumbering midfielder Harry Middleton has taken a fitness test; and passed, and is set to leave the Rovers.  The rumoured destination is Port Vale but I hope his journey there is quicker than his progress around the Keepmoat midfield because the window shuts at midnight.  Whether he has enough gas in the tank to finalise any deal may well go to the wire.

29th August 2017

Games coming thick and fast, this time the ‘Checkatrade’ (tinpot) trophy showdown against Grimsby.  The calls to boycott the game and the shambolic competition were largely observed with 800 or so people bothering to turn up.  It ended 1-1 but we won on pens, apparently.

26th August 2017

Lost 2-0 at Wimbledon.  The kind of crap which makes managers apologise to the fans after the game, which Darren Ferguson duly did.  The two goals we conceded were really poor and exposed a soft centre in midfield which shone a very bright light on our identified frailties at centre back.  We had loads possession but against a side who had not won a game this season, created sod all and never looked like scoring heading back north with everything we deserved.

25th August 2017

The cup draw was at 4am this morning for reasons which make perfect sense to someone, somewhere.  It was all design to publicise the competition to everyone except those who actually wanted to watch it.  Big news is that we draw the mighty Arsenal, away.  Anyone fancy a trip to the capital to watch the Gunners youth team?

22nd August 2017

The league cup comes back to town, or the EFL Cup, or Cara-whatever cup anyway.  Rovers beat an under strength Hull city 2-0 and in doing so deliver another decent performance, although as yard sticks go Hull’s youthful side is difficult to measure.  Another win and lets look forward to the third round draw where we will inevitably draw the lowest ranked team left in the competition, away.  Or Leeds.

19th August 2017

So much for my prediction, though it was a draw.  3-3.  Rovers led 3 times but were pegged back by a lively Blackpool side three times, in the case of the first and third goals within a minute of going ahead.

Blackpool looked full of purpose and confidence and always looked like they had the mental strength to get something.  I bemoaned the fact that in comparison we weren’t physical or aggressive enough in key areas of the pitch and again, particularly in the first half, the tempo was too slow.  The defenders did ok, it was midfield lapses that let us down, the diamond not conducive to tackling width.  Matty Blair has had a lot to deal with personally and wasn’t at his best again today.  Tommy Rowe was once more too in and out of the game and doesn’t do enough defensively – he should’ve done better on their second goal.  The bright spot was the continued emergence of Alfie May.  His recent goals have bred some new confidence and he looks more purposeful in the box.  He got another one today (along with Marquis and an og) so his confidence may yet swell further.  Kongolo came on as sub and did ok, if not looking a bit nervous at times (he looked very nervous at Blackburn but is still a kid) and although it is 2 points lost, Blackpool are a decent side, we’re still unbeaten and have scored 9 goals in the last three games.

17th August 2017

Home against Blackpool.  I did a bit of work around the newly fashionable ‘Expected Goals’ football analysis stat this week.  I got my calculator out and cobbled together a new formula for predicting football results, confidently saying Rovers v Blackpool will end up 1-1.  We’ll see, might put a tenner on it..

12 August 2017
Trip to Blackburn against everyone’s pick to win the league this year. Same team that drew with Gillingham last week played out a rather uneventful first half. Blackburn looked crap but we looked comfortable without offering too much. I tweeted at half time that the game was ours for the taking and within a minute of the restart John Marquis did just that, capitalising on a defensive mistake he run clear before drilling a great finish into the bottom left corner.
A fine break then led to Coppinger being bundled over in the box before getting up to convert the pen himself and then Alfie May made enough of a nuisance of himself to force another mistake from a very accommodating Blackburn back four to roll in a third. We did give away a soft consolation – a header from a cross, but it was all over long before. An excellent second half performance during which we defended well and broke with real purpose. It’s proving difficult to be pessimistic at the moment. It won’t last…

10th August 2017
First win of the season with a really impressive win at Bradford city. A late Whiteman strike seals a 3-2 win with Kongolo and May the other scorers. First time Bradford have lost at home in months and months. Another good performance characterised by an ability to break a quickly and convert chances.
The draw for the second round sees us at home to Hull. Cup run anyone?

7th August 2017

Decent performance all round which would’ve been better had Marty Blair and John Marquis done better with excellent chances, in addition to a long range drive which hit the bar. Lawlor needed to produce a top save to keep Gillingham out. Lots of positives but ultimately only a point.

4th August 2017

Darren Ferguson has been talking to the media before the first game of the season tomorrow by essentially providing a whistle stop tour of what promotion means “Myself and the players will respect the league as it will be a lot harder as we got promoted last season and it won’t be easy.” I wonder if anyone has ever said “it’s was easy last year and we went up, still think we’ll go up this year too, it will be piss easy”? Either way, its game time tomorrow. Finally.

Realistically bottom third / mid table will be us next year I reckon. We will still concede goals from balls delivered with any quality into our box and in league One they should be even more regularly delivered than last year. I think we might struggle to break teams down going forward but surely we should have enough quality to beat the teams worse than us in this league. By rights we should not have been relegated a year or so ago and we are arguably better than that now. I do think we will find things tougher than a lot of people seem to think, not least because we have recruited so poorly.

3rd August 2017

Turns out Issam Ben Khemis has signed a two year deal with us – two years! The lad should go out and bag a lottery ticket for Saturday, his luck seems to be in at the moment. Not concerned by being saddled with Evina and Middleton having given both multiple year deals, it seems if you turn up and train well for a couple of weeks anyone can secure their medium term financial status.

Also signed up is 19 year old Rodney Kongolo. At 6’1 he could add some physical presence in midfield. Apparently he’s a good athlete too and gets up and down well. Sounds a good prospect but important to remember that despite playing for Man City’s under 23’s he’s still only a teenager. He joins on a 6 month loan.

2nd August 2017

Deal done for Issam Ben Khemis, so we can all relax. Apparently another deal has been done for an as yet unnamed young midfielder to join on loan. Ferguson has gone full circle once more and decided he needs another centre back but any deal might mean he can’t sign Jordan Houghton when he gets fit. More bollocks which appears designed to help craft a get out clause when things go tits up and ready a ‘I had to work to the budget I was given’ excuse. In his defence, pre season must’ve crept up on him and his staff, I mean who would’ve thought to plan in advance? It’ll be fine.

30th July 2017

Pre season fixtures end with a bang. Well, at least if you’re the Chesterfield defender Alfie May delivered a frustrated stamp on. The Rovers forward spent a spell during the first half at the Proact running round getting more and more frustrated and angry with the officials (in the same manner my children do when they are over tired and hungry) before things spilled over and he was shown a red card and presumably sent to bed early and without any pudding. That wasn’t the worst of it though, Rovers looked off the pace, not too bothered and ultimately second best as they cruised to a 4-0 defeat. Easy to point to the fact that most of the game was played with 10 men and after 60 minutes most first teamers were replaced with kids but really, we were just crap.
It was said that May wouldn’t receive a ban despite the red card, then it was up to the ref to report it to the FA which would result in a three game ban, then the club said he would be suspended for the game at Gainsborough which was billed as a youth team game but apparently was good enough to draw a line under the mess. All sounds like a lot of crap designed to gloss over the actual issue, a lot like our pre season recruitment.


28th July 2017

Doncaster Rovers training session

the back four go through some training drills

Finally, Rovers make a long awaited foray into the market. Donny market to be precise. The squad traipse through the town promoting the market and encouraging people to visit Doncaster. If only they could encourage a big centre back and a holding midfielder we’d be set. Still, Mathieu Baudry can sleep easier tonight knowing if doesn’t shake off his injury he can probably get by whacking out fish to the towns pensioners. Never hurts to have a plan b, unless you’re in charge of player recruitment at DRFC.

27th July 2017

Lost to Wednesday 2-1 at Belle Vue with better side winning but another Liam Mandeville goal provides some encouragement.
News afterwards that new signing Alex Kiwomya needs to see a specialist about his bad back, he’s proving to be the signing I had expected.
Further news that having cited a big ball winning, talking central defender was a must a week ago, but having missed out on two targets, apparently it doesn’t matter anymore with Ferguson now saying the really important deal of the summer is trying to sign the previously unheard of midfielder (well, still unheard of if we are being honest) and trialist Issam Ben Khemis, who has played only a couple of reserve games whilst plying his trade across the channel in

issam ben khemis

Issam Ben Khemis

in France, but now – presumably because he’s available, represents our biggest hope for the season. From premier league targets to a kid who’s been on trial for month, its like looking round the Mercedes garage but deciding actually it would be better to buy that plastic scooter from Argos.
Ferguson is also talking to a young premier league midfielder with a view to a loan move (well someone has to make the tea at half time) and he will talk to Jordan Houghton in August about rejoining following injury. Seems to be a lot of talking done, but sod all else.

24th July 2017

Having laboured to a 1-0 win over guiseley it turns out we won’t be signing Greer either. The higher force at work (Darren Ferguson) told the local press that he was one of the names he’d talked about, but it won’t be going any further. Having gone on record describing at some length the kind of centre back he needs to sign as a priority it will be interesting to see what the manager produces from the market. I reckon this month could be pivotal for the rest of the season. Failing to get a big centre half in could be the difference.


23rd July 2017

So confirmation comes that we have missed out on former premier league defender and number one transfer target Steven Taylor. As feared he has joined a bigger club on a two year deal – Peterborough. The fact we have missed out to another league one club seems odd, I wonder how much either side actually wanted the deal to happen. Anyway, not to worry, apparently we have found a replacement and are on the verge of completing the signing of 36 year old Gordon Greer. Presumably one of the reasons we didn’t sign Taylor was because his injury record represents a risk, yet we are apparently comfortable a 36 year old will stay fit enough to warrant a deal? There must be higher forces at work here.

21st July 2017

Rovers are still trying to complete the Steven Taylor deal, speaking to The Free Press, Darren Ferguson said: “I like players who can play out of the back but when I’ve analysed and looked at it, I still think the most important thing we need now is players with that bit of experience and leadership, that will head the ball out of the box.”
Good job he was able to take some time and have that particular conundrum “analysed”, failing that I reckon he could’ve just asked Stevie Wonder, whom I’m sure could’ve also seen that.
Any Taylor deal would mean no more signings in defence. Let’s hope if he signs, he stays fit or we will be woefully short. Slightly better news though in Mathieu Baudry is making good progress and could only be out for 4-6 weeks, a significant improvement on the original estimate.

Further perusal of the Free Press website reveals that Niall Mason had his home burgled and his Mercedes stolen in midweek. The biggest surprise being that Mason resides in the ‘champagne lifestyle’ haven of Edlington. I can only assume that as well as his Merc, he came home to find his carpets, boiler and copper piping gone too. Welcome to Doncaster Niall.


19th July 2017

A creditable 1-1 draw with Derby in the first almost meaningful game of preseason. The main positive being that we got through the game with no new injuries. Another possible positive being that former Newcastle defender Steven Taylor played the first 45 minutes having trained with the club this week. He has played over 200 games for Newcastle, mostly in the Premier League and a fit Steven Taylor would be a massive acquisition for any League One side. The worry is that a fit Steven Taylor wouldn’t be at the Rovers, he’d be looking much higher up and having been released by Ipswich, where he spent the first half of this year injured, there are clearly some doubts.
He represents a gamble, but if the right deal can be struck and it fits in with the wage structure, he could be exactly what we have been looking for. Again, we’ll have to see.

John Marquis Doncaster roversOther positive news is that John Marquis has signed a new 3 year deal with the club. I’m surprised at this as I thought he might have been looking to move higher but it seems the club have offered terms good enough to keep him here. Let’s hope he hits the ground running again this season and represents value for money, it would be in the best interests of all parties.

16th July 2017

Sunday brings the news that star defender Matthieu Baudry, having played 0 minutes of pre season, has a stress fracture of the ankle and is out for 2-3 months.  This is turning into a bad dream, 2 of our key men out for a third of a season that hasn’t even started yet.

Don’t panic. The manager has a cool head, I’m sure he knows what do… Now, what was that trialist called again?

15th July 2017

Another win, another clean sheet. If only Tadcaster were a league one staple then I’d be settling in for a season riddled with monotony of winning every week. Ignore the fact that we appeared to labour to a 2-0 win, it was a good run out.  Gary McSheffrey, released at the end of last season scored our first goal goal.  I’m stating to worry that our marque signing of the summer will be a bloke in his mid 30’s who couldn’t get fit enough / play well enough in league two last year to get into our team.

The team was littered with ‘trialists’ all of who made were so good that no one knew who they were. It’s almost a season though the club have been caught totally off guard by the transfer window and the need to sign any new players.

14th July 2017

Earlier this week I said Luke McCullogh could be a key man this year?  Well now he’s injured. Again.  No one knows how long for except to say “Months”.  Bugger.

In happier news though, John Marquis is producing a vlog as the players go through pre season.  I’ve only watched one so far but it suggests that when the players aren’t playing football they sit around and watch TV.  Who knew?

11th July 2017
We won 9-0. Who cares if it was against a team 11 rungs lower than us on the ladder, we still won and scored 9 times in the process! Mandeville got a hat trick, cops got a couple, John Marquis played, scored and apparently tried really hard forcing the local press to deduce that he loves Doncaster and wants to be here forever. Ferguson says afterwards he sure Marquis will sign s new deal and is confident this will happen before the new season starts. We’ll see.
The only blow came before the game started, Matthieu Baudry limping out of the warm up, though his subsequent omission was said to be merely precautionary. 9-0? I’m putting a tenner on us doing a Leicester.

10th July 2017
So then, so far 3 signings – a full back who struggles to stay fit but apparently is a good player when his manages to be, a midfielder on loan, who may be a good player at some point over the next 5 years, and a winger come forward who finds that the reward for not getting into a crap Crewe side on a regular basis is a three year contract at Doncaster.
McCullogh apparently has had to have his knee flushed out? I assume this is similar to a procedure my central heating underwent a couple of years ago – hope its more effective for the Irishman, who I reckon could be a key figure this year.
The players apparently have spent the last week in Scotland but have returned to the glamour of South Yorkshire in time for tomorrow nights friendly at Armthorpe. Should be a cracker.



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