VIDEO + analysis: Oldham Athletic 1 Doncaster Rovers 2
When it comes to strikers and form, we are consistently told confidence is key.
Right now, Andy Williams is the very definition of a confident striker, embodied by at least one of his two goals in a win over Oldham Athletic which was much more comfortable than the scoreline might suggest.
Williams brought down a free kick punted long by Craig Alcock with a sublime touch which gave him the space to turn a curl an absolutely beauty beyond David Cornell with the outside of his boot.
It gave Rovers the lead with 12 minutes gone after they barely saw the ball in the game’s opening.
By the time Williams doubled the advantage on the stroke of half time, their control of possession had hardly improved.
In fact, throughout the game, Oldham were better at keeping the ball.
But, down to their own shortcomings and a brilliantly dogged performance from Rovers, they failed to turn possession into pressure and rarely troubled their hosts.
It was a shame that Rovers missed an opportunity for a first clean sheet in six matches when Rhys Murphy fired home with 16 minutes to go.
But there was never any real danger of them missing out on the three points.
After the disappointing Boxing Day performance in defeat to Scunthorpe United, many might have hoped for a Rovers return to recent performances.
But again, there was none of the breathless, pacy attacking play that has characterised the early Darren Ferguson era.
Nevertheless, there was plenty of pleasing factors in Rovers’ performance.
When they had the opportunities to attack, they surged forward in numbers and caused the type of problems their hosts could only dream of.
Nathan Tyson dropped to the bench with Ferguson feeling he could not manage two starts in three days.
In came Paul Keegan while Felipe Mattioni made an ultimately doomed return to the side.
Personnel changes also brought a change of system – a flowing hybrid Ferguson afterwards labelled as 4-3-3.
James Coppinger and Conor Grant flanked Williams in attack but the system behind them was in constant flux, even after Mitchell Lund replaced Mattioni with 31 minutes gone.
Keegan and Harry Middleton both sat in front at the defenders, Cedric Evina clung to the left flank.
What the system did do was ensure Rovers had plenty of men behind the ball. So when Oldham did have the ball, they largely met a red and white brick wall.
With nine goals conceded in the preceding five games, such defensive resilience was a major positive, even it meant the thrills were in short supply.
After winning a corner with 15 seconds gone, Rovers barely touched the ball for the next five minutes.
Oldham should have been in front after two minutes when Carl Winchester ghosted into space at the back post only to head over.
When Rovers did get the ball, they attacked with real intent. Coppinger struck a ferocious effort on the turn which Cornell held well.
But moments later they did take the lead. A striker on form can do special things and there was certainly a bit of magic from Williams as opened the scoring.
Rovers almost saw their lead doubled mere seconds later. Evina slid a pass back to Grant who shot first time from 20 yards only to see the ball rattle back off the far post.
Oldham re-established control of possession and had some decent play on the flanks, particularly through former Sheffield Wednesday winger Mike Jones.
But real chances were few and far between.
A speculative piledriver from Liam Kelly deflected wide. Thorsten Stuckmann produced an excellent save to keep out a diving header from Jones while Timothee Dieng headed off the bar from the subsequent corner.
Rovers waiting until the closing moments of the half to enjoy their second real spell of possession. Williams fired past the post from an Aaron Taylor-Sinclair free kick and headed straight at Cornell.
But he would score again and after his sublime opener, Williams’ second goal was straight out of the box marked ridiculous.
Middleton strolled through the Rovers defence to the byline and clipped a cross over Cornell. The ball dropped to Williams who scuffed a volley which hit the post, bounced and then spun over the line.
Stuckmann went full stretch to keep out a Murphy header in first half stoppage time.
It was not until they pulled a goal back on 74 minutes that the hosts really threatened, despite continuing to see more of the ball.
Substitute Mark Yeates saw his shot block after a knockdown from Murphy who then reacted quickly to smash home the rebound.
In response, Rovers sought to keep Oldham out of the final third by any means necessary, smashing clearances up the pitch.
It may not have been pretty but it was effective against an Oldham side short on ideas.
The only real threat of an equaliser came deep into injury time when Murphy darted in to meet a dangerous cross but skied his header over the bar.
A worthwhile trip in the end therefore with Williams moving onto 12 goals for the season and Rovers adding the dogged string to their ever-expanding bow.
Confidence is flowing.
Oldham: Cornell, B Wilson, Dieng, J Wilson (Dummigan 46), Eckersley (Mills 71), Winchester (Yeates 56), Kelly, Philliskirk, Jones, . Subs not used: Coleman, Croft, Poleon, Rasulo.
Rovers: Stuckmann, Alcock, Butler, Taylor-Sinclair, Mattioni (Lund 31), Middleton, Keegan, Grant, Evina, Coppinger (Chaplow 71), Williams (Tyson 64). Subs not used: Marosi, McCullough, Whitehouse, Mandeville.
Referee: Ross Joyce (Cleveland)
Attendance: 4,432 (766 away)