Friday Spotlight: What’s gone wrong at Rovers?

Theo Robinson celebrates scoring against Wigan with his teammates.
Theo Robinson celebrates scoring against Wigan with his teammates.

It hardly seems five minutes - let alone five months - since Rovers were in wonderland at Wigan.

First half goals from Chris Brown and Theo Robinson had Doncaster flying at the home of the FA Cup holders, riding on the crest of a wave after bullying Blackburn a week previous.

Then came Leon Barnett’s last minute leveller. Just four days later Rovers’ early momentum drowned at the Valley.

Since that heady opening month, the breathless performances of the Blackburn ilk - characterised by the relentless closing down and quick passing - have reared their head only sporadically.

Rovers were wet behind the ears, playing without fear, still adrenalized by the buzz of Brentford.

People have since pointed to that Charlton wash-out as the day that Doncaster’s season went downhill.

But, while the rain ruined Rovers’ bright start, it is not the reason why the team that host Wigan this weekend resemble a pale shadow of the side that strode out with real purpose and belief at the DW Stadium in August.

So what’s gone wrong? It’s more a cumulative effect, encompassing luck, resources and confidence. The good thing is, there’s still time to put things right.

It could be argued that Doncaster went into this season, following a turbulent summer of takeover talks, somewhat pushing their luck.

Their first 11 would give anyone a game, but the squad seriously lacked depth.

With limited funds to play with, Rovers gambled on not suffering the catalogue of injuries which, sure enough, did start to materialise mid-October.

The gamble backfired. Injuries to Rob Jones, James Husband and Paul Keegan in particular took the wind out of Doncaster sails.

But the club’s medical problems are not solely to blame for the downturn in form.

In fact in November, when the injury list was arguably at its worst, Rovers accrued their best monthly points tally (seven) including a stunning comeback win over Queens Park Rangers.

The point with the injuries is that they brutally exposed the frailty of Doncaster’s squad.

The stand-ins, Luke McCullough aside, have failed to produce the goods. Rovers have been consistently inconsistent.

The habit of losing, and conceding daft goals, has sucked the life out of Doncaster; the life that was so evident during that opening month.

A little fear has crept in too. Griffin Park now seems like an eternity ago.

I remember asking Paul Dickov during the first few weeks of the season how he planned to get lung-busting performances, like the one at home to Blackburn, week-in week-out. Even Dickov admitted it’s impossible to get 11 men to run themselves into the ground almost twice a week, over the duration of a 46-game season.

And that’s still the root of the problem for me. High energy Rovers can more than compete at this level. An off the pace Rovers will get turned over.

Rovers need to be re-energised somehow, and the return of some key players from the treatment room might just achieve that, along with a couple of new signings.

On Saturday it will be a different Doncaster and a different Wigan that take to the field.

There’ll even be a flashback to that famous win at Brentford, courtesy of Uwe Rosler’s move north.

Let’s just hope Rovers can turn the clock back to August, before it’s too late.