Match analysis: Accrington Stanley 3 Doncaster Rovers 2 - Old habits die hard for Rovers
A new season, new personnel and a new start but it was a very familiar story for Doncaster Rovers as they began life in League Two.
The faults which sent them tumbling towards relegation last season were all too prominent in their opening day trip to Accrington Stanley.
They were largely in control of the clash, producing some impressive possession play. But they failed to convert pressure into goals.
And they ultimately left the Wham Stadium empty-handed because, again, they could not see out the game after equalising late on.
It could have been different had Andy Williams scored from the spot after Stanley keeper Aaron Chapman clattered Matty Blair in the first minute.
But after the penalty was saved, Accrington went ahead with eight minutes gone as Rommy Boco slotted home after latching on to a ball over the top.
Tommy Rowe equalised with a superb individual goal on 12 minutes only for Matty Pearson’s speculative effort to catch Ross Etheridge off guard on the half-hour.
Rovers knocked on the door for much of the second half but did not get the break until the 82nd minute when Chapman fumbled Williams’ first-time strike.
Though they looked the most likely winners, Rovers finished beaten when Sean McConville produced a brilliant controlled volley to beat Etheridge from the corner of the box in the first minute of added time.
SETTING THE STANDARD
Rovers were very good with the ball, ensuring there were some positives to cling on to as they headed home empty handed.
But part of their undoing came down to some players being less industrious than their Accrington counterparts. The hosts were quicker to the ball in midfield during the first half and were collectively the more willing runners.
Rovers’ best work came through their hardest-running players – particularly Matty Blair and John Marquis.
Blair was tireless at wing-back, covering every inch of the right flank and causing plenty of headaches for Accrington.
And Marquis showed tremendous endeavour, running into the channels to create chances for himself and team mates.
The efforts of the pair set the standard for the rest of the team.
DEFENCE IS STILL MAJOR CONCERN
Defensive resolve was a huge worry last season and, unfortunately, questions have carried over into the new campaign.
A rather makeshift back three raised concerns before kick off with Andy Butler the only out-and-out centre-back.
But it was the defensive mindset as a whole which cost Rovers the points.
All three goals saw an element of defensive frailty, be it poor positioning, switching off or being slow to close down.
And goalkeeper Etheridge could perhaps have done better with the latter two goals.
With Joe Wright and, in particular, Mathieu Baudry to return, Rovers should be a more resolute side in the coming months.
But they will need to be much more switched on overall if that added experience is going to count.
MIXED BAG OF DEBUTS
Five of Rovers’ starting 11 made their debuts for the club at Accrington.
The aforementioned Blair and Marquis were two shining lights in their side, due to their tireless play.
But the three other debutants were rather disappointing.
Keeper Etheridge did not have a great deal to do but when called into action, he looked less than solid.
Let down by his defence for the first goal, the 21-year-old was slow to react for the strikes from Pearson and McConville – though the latter was a particularly fine effort.
Jordan Houghton and Niall Mason went straight into the side after half-season loan deals were announced for the pair on Saturday morning.
Houghton – playing in the defensive midfield role – conceded possession rather cheaply at times in the first half and was slow to react on other occasions.
Mason looks to be an impressive footballer with a great range of passing but may be more effective further forward rather than being part of a back three.