Match analysis: Doncaster Rovers stifled by Morecambe but it's no cause for alarm
Doncaster Rovers dropped their first points of 2017 against a no-nonsense Morecambe side, but there is absolutely no cause for undue concern at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Darren Ferguson’s men lacked the sort of killer instinct that has seen them go clear at the top of League Two.
But they did not go short on goalscoring opportunities and on another day, with a bit more composure in the final third, would have probably won this game in quite comfortable fashion.
Rovers did not start the contest at their usual high tempo. And at times in the first half they appeared to be slightly rattled defensively.
But, rather than complacency on Doncaster’s part, that was more down to a well-drilled Morecambe team who hustled impressively and also played with a real physical edge.
Jim Bentley’s decision to man-mark James Coppinger also paid dividends as the Rovers veteran was kept on the fringes of the game during an opening period that saw Peter Murphy curl the Shrimps into a shock lead.
After the break, normal service was resumed as the hosts completely dominated possession and territory, and the one-way traffic resulted in John Marquis equalising with his 18th goal of the season.
But for all their superiority, on this occasion Rovers could not make it count on the scoresheet and had to settle for a point - ending a run of six straight league wins on home soil.
Rovers this season have tended to respond very well on the occasions they have fallen behind at home.
But it took them 45 minutes to get a foothold on this game, as Morecambe unsurprisingly tired and began to defend deeper.
The visitors really began the game on the front foot and collectively made their mark by putting their foot in and also hunting in packs - an approach which appeared to unsettle Rovers.
There had been a couple of early warning signs from corners before a delivery from the left led to Murphy’s opener, an excellent curled effort after the midfielder’s mis-hit shot fell very kindly.
Both sides had goals ruled out for offisde, while Doncaster’s most dangerous moments came on the counter-attack - the best of which saw Andy Williams denied by the impressive Barry Roche after going clear, before Conor Grant’s tame effort on the follow-up was blocked on the line.
While Morecambe’s combative and direct style had provided a threat in the first half, their mind-set in the second period became more about holding onto what they had.
Rovers probed away and a deserved equaliser came on 56 minutes when Coppinger’s cross from the left was expertly guided home by Marquis.
Marquis came closest to a winner with a rasping effort from distance that went just wide, while at the other end Ian Lawlor had to keep out a late effort from substitute Rhys Turner.
PHYSICAL EDGE REQUIRED
After seeing his side dominate the second half, and have 19 shots compared to Morecambe’s three, Ferguson will not be unduly concerned. But the way Morecambe muscled their way ahead - and slightly bullied Rovers - might need some attention.
Rovers are likely to face something very similar against Graham Westley’s Newport County on Friday.
Ferguson said: “It’s disappointing. We should’ve won the game with the dominance we had, particularly in the second half. I honestly don’t think my players could have done any more to win the game. Some days you get the breaks, some days you don’t.
“To be fair, once Morecambe went ahead it gave them something to hold on to and I thought they were excellent in the way they went about their job.”