Paul Goodwin: Deja vu for Doncaster as Dickov stumbles upon away day formula

Paul Quinn was outstanding at Forest. Picture: Steve Uttley.
Paul Quinn was outstanding at Forest. Picture: Steve Uttley.

Doncaster fans would have been forgiven for experiencing a strong sense of deja vu at the City Ground.

Because Rovers’ steadfast display was incredibly reminiscent of several of last season’s successful away days.

Under Paul Dickov, Rovers are a different proposition compared to how they played under Dean Saunders and Brian Flynn. They are much less direct, happier with the ball to feet and more adept - thanks mainly to the acquisition of Richie Wellens - of passing quickly and incisively.

But old habits die hard. Rovers looked as comfortable as they have done away from home this season on Saturday, playing in a way preached by Dickov’s predecessors: sit deep and play on the counter attack, rather than press at every opportunity.

With a bit more composure in the final third - most notably from Mark Duffy, Billy Sharp and James Husband who found themselves on the end of the best chances - Rovers could have came away from Forest with all three points.

But, the result aside, it was the nature of Rovers’ performance which suggested that the players are more comfortable with a safety first strategy away from the Keepmoat Stadium.

The shape of the side was excellent. After a shaky start, Doncaster’s well-drilled two banks of four nullified Forest’s intricate midfield build-up.

There was a calmness about Doncaster’s play, personified by the commanding Sam Johnstone in goal.

While Paul Quinn’s warrior-like effort at centre half was a throwback to some of the wholehearted defending that turned Rovers into one of England’s hardest to teams to beat on the road last term.

Prior to last weekend, and with the memory of Bournemouth still lingering, it was difficult to see where the next point was coming from away from the Keepmoat. Rovers’ fixture run-in - including remaining trips to Burnley and Leicester - sent a shiver down the spine.

But if Doncaster can be as organised and disciplined as they were at Forest, they can end the season not just by avoiding relegation but by looking up the table rather than down.

Dickov might just be kicking himself slightly this week. ‘If only we’d sat deeper on more occasions away from home’, he might be thinking. If he can combine the dogged defending with quick, incisive passing of the counter-attacking variety, he may well have stumbled upon Rovers’ perfect away day formula.