Paul Goodwin: It’s worth Paul Dickov sticking with 4-2-3-1

Curtis Main. Photo: Steve Uttley
Curtis Main. Photo: Steve Uttley

It hasn’t had the desired effect in recent weeks. That’s an understatement.

But the 4-2-3-1 formation with James Coppinger, Kyle Bennett and Harry Forrester playing as ‘nearly strikers’ is worth persevering with.

Whether those three can all play in the same team, however, is a source of debate.

The aforementioned trio, on paper, have enough quality to run any League One defence ragged.

Following the tame display at home to Oldham, Dickov looked to the trio to inject life into his side at Bristol City. They had caught the eye in training during the week and they got off to a promising start. We all know what happened next.

So it was no great surprise to see those three reunited at Walsall behind Theo Robinson, only for Rovers to slip to another hapless defeat.

Two 3-0 reverses might suggest that Coppinger, Bennett and Forrester is one luxury player too many. Dickov might consider only using all three at the Keepmoat Stadium, where opposition defences tend to sit deep and Rovers need to find a way of playing in between the lines.

But the 4-2-3-1 as a structure is worth sticking with - particularly when Curtis Main is back and firing.

Rovers played their best football of the season when they adopted this shape against Preston, Colchester and Watford. Bennett and Coppinger were on song. Dean Furman, interestingly, shone in a more advanced midfield role.

Robinson and Nathan Tyson have worked hard up top but they struggle to make the ball stick. That’s not really their game; they prefer to play on the shoulder.

But when Main returns he will hold up the ball for fun, and allow players to get beyond him and into the box. That’s when Forrester in particular could come into his own.

One of the main criticisms of Dickov this week, with fans’ patience wearing thin, has been his tendency to tinker with team shape. Some supporters will argue that Rovers should be playing two up front at this level.

But 4-2-3-1 can be equally effective - Rovers have proven that already this season - and if the Scot is to stick by one structure then it’s this one that the players seem happiest in.

Furman, Forrester or Richie Wellens as the most advanced central midfielder? That looks like the million dollar question.