Analysis: Frustration for Doncaster Rovers on an off day at Plymouth Argyle
Frustration, frustration, frustration - three words to sum up Rovers' defeat to promotion rivals Plymouth.
Frustration that the two goals conceded came from a mistake and a questionable penalty call.
Frustration that they lacked a ruthless edge in the final third.
And frustration they face three games without their captain after his reaction to a disgraceful example of gamesmanship.
Rovers were far from poor as they slipped to a first league defeat in seven weeks and lost their lauded record of having scored in every league game.
They pressed and probed a Plymouth outfit which looked much more like the one which topped the table for ten weeks than the one which recently slumped.
But, in a close battle, they simply lacked the killer touch to take anything from it.
Their main attacking threat came from wide areas but Plymouth defended stoutly, closing down every ball and leaving no room for error.
Given the tightness of the game, it seemed inevitable either a piece of real quality or a mistake would be needed to break the deadlock. Plymouth got both in one on 33 minutes.
Butler played an all too nonchalant pass to Tommy Rowe, with the superb Graham Carey racing in to intercept.
Rowe slipped as he tried to right his body for the chase and Carey was free to charge to the edge of the box before producing a sublime curling effort.
It halted Rovers’ bright start and they meandered somewhat until conceding again on 62 minutes.
Ryan Donaldson took a heavy touch and raced after the ball, straight into Butler who had no time to get out of the way. Referee Oliver Langford quickly pointed to the spot from where Jake Jervis smashed a penalty in off the underside of the bar.
Rovers roared back to life as Plymouth retreated deeper to protect their lead. But clear-cut chances were few and far between.
They were presented with a potential lifeline in the final minute but failed to claim it.
Matty Blair skipped into the box but was tripped by David Fox.
Liam Mandeville stepped up and, in attempting to place the ball in the bottom corner, struck the outside of the post - Rovers’ fifth penalty miss of the season.
The aftermath saw the game end on an even more sour note for Rovers.
The scenes following Mandeville’s penalty miss were wholly unnecessary and certainly unsportsmanlike.
McCormick was quick to gloat in the 19-year-old’s face as he sank to his knees - bizarre given he had played no part in the miss and his side’s two-goal cushion remained.
The disappointing conduct of the experienced keeper - and Plymouth captain - understandably angered Rovers players and Coppinger in particular.
Coppinger’s reaction to briefly grab McCormick by the throat gave Langford full justification to send him off.
But perhaps calmer heads should have prevailed all round and a bit of common sense deployed by the official following an incident where tempers were always likely to flare.
A TELLING APPROACH
Where it went wrong for Rovers came down to a lack of incisiveness in the final third. They had more than enough possession and decent build-up play to cause Plymouth more problems than they actually did.
In and around the box, they simply lacked the quality needed to unpick a strong Argyle defence.
The likes of Coppinger, Rowe and Blair all tried desperately and tirelessly to make something happen but Mandeville and John Marquis were shut out.
Telling, though, was Plymouth’s approach, altered from the usual possession-based attacking play.
Argyle were much more reserved, operating much deeper and playing on the counter-attack.
Derek Adams showed a surprising amount of respect to Rovers, given the obvious quality his side possess.
And that says more than enough about the impression Doncaster have made on League Two so far this season.