Doncaster Rovers v Rochdale preview: Jones calls for defensive improvement

Mark Duffy played his part in a good attacking display against Blackpool, which Rob Jones hopes will be carried over into tonight's game.
Mark Duffy played his part in a good attacking display against Blackpool, which Rob Jones hopes will be carried over into tonight's game.
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There will be no switching off tonight in the Capital One Cup. Rob Jones will make sure of that.

The competition might be viewed by some as an unhelpful distraction to Doncaster’s primary objective this season - surviving in the Championship.

But Jones is eager to use this evening’s visit of Rochdale to continue the good that came out of Rovers’ opening day defeat to Blackpool.

And the skipper is equally keen for his teammates to sharpen up at the back, after admitting that the Tangerines’ productivity in front of goal came as something of an eye-opener.

A disappointed, frustrated Jones paused thoughtfully before reflecting on Saturday’s 3-1 reverse.

The Corporal hates losing, and he’s desperate to right the wrongs of the weekend this evening.

“I thought we controlled the game for the majority of it,” he told The Star.

“At one all I thought there was only going to be one winner.

“Going forward I thought we were very good but if you make two mistakes from set pieces like we did, you’ll get punished in the Championship.

“Last year we got away with it at times but in this division teams are a lot sharper in terms of capitalising on mistakes.”

That sharpness needs to be countered by proactive and quick-thinking defending, something Jones is keen to see rehearsed tonight against a side who found the net three times against Hartlepool on Saturday.

Rovers need to learn quickly from what went wrong at the weekend, starting this evening, says Jones.

“Ross [Turnbull] made a save and then a second save and still there’s no one near it,” said Jones, reflecting on Steven Davies’ opener.

“You’ve got to learn the fundamentals.

“When a shot goes in you have to help your goalkeeper and react. We didn’t react quickly enough.

“We deservedly got to 1-1 and it was nice to score, but it doesn’t really mean anything when you get beat.

“The second goal was poor from our point of view; a free header at the back stick from a set piece,

“It just can’t happen in this division or we’ll get punished time and time again.

“So it’s a bit of a learning curve for the lads. A very quick learning curve.

“Hopefully the boys will react quicker in future and get on with what we’re good at, because we showed some really good signs on Saturday.

“We looked good going forward and limited them to three or four chances and they’ve ended up scoring three times, so in that respect it was a bit of an eye-opener.”

Jones looks set to continue his new partnership with South African defender Bongani Khumalo tonight.

Boss Paul Dickov expected to keep changes to a minimum for the visit of League Two Rochdale - and will see tonight’s game as a perfect opportunity to blood a new-look back five who have played very little football together as a unit.

“Bongs is raw, but he’s got talent,” said Jones, of his new centre back partner.

“You don’t play 30 odd games for South Africa if you’re not a good player.

“Partnerships get better over time.

“I thought we did very well on Saturday as a partnership and as a back five as a whole.

“The more we play together the more we’ll understand each other and get to know each other’s games.

“It’s nice to play alongside him.

“He’s desperate to do well here which is obviously a good thing.”

Rovers last met Rochdale seven years ago at the same first round stage of the League Cup, winning 3-2 with goals from Mark McCammon and James Coppinger.

After telling The Star he would name a strong team for tonight’s first round tie, Dickov could be tempted to send out an unchanged eleven, in view of the fact Rovers have a blank weekend on the horizon due to Wigan’s involvement in the Community Shield.

Kyle Bennett, Paul Keegan and Billy Paynter are the most likely players to come into contention for a start, if Dickov decides to rest one or two senior members of his squad.