Post-Swindon analysis: Opportunity knocks for Doncaster Rovers

swindon vs doncaster - iain hume gets treatment for bad head injury just before HT
swindon vs doncaster - iain hume gets treatment for bad head injury just before HT

BATTERED, bruised and later bandaged, Iain Hume could barely put one foot in front of the other as he was helped from the field by physio Alex Dalton.

His arms crossed, like an X-Factor style gesture, Dalton had made it quite clear to the bench that Hume could not continue after a nasty clash of heads with Aden Flint just before the interval left him requiring eight stitches just above his right eye.

Hume, however, was having none of it.

The on-loan Preston man appeared as normal for the second half and proceeded to run his socks off for the cause in customary fashion.

In all honesty he barely got a kick.

In fact, his wayward long range shot, just moments after Danny Hollands had put through his own net to cancel out Matt Ritchie’s early strike, was probably Rovers’ only meaningful attempt on goal during a backs-to-the-wall display at the County Ground.

As Paulo Di Canio became more and more animated on the sidelines, and his side more desperate in their attempts to break down Doncaster’s well-drilled defence, Rovers’ eleven man wall simply refused to budge.

Doncaster failed to get going as an attacking force and they gave possession away far too easily, but the reception from the travelling 600 supporters at the final whistle told its own tale.

Just like Hume, a flashback to Terry Butcher’s more blood-stained bandage in a 1990 World Cup qualifier, this entire Rovers side refuse to surrender. They seem to relish shutting teams out, and simply detest conceding goals.

It might not be pretty at times, but those fans that made the journey to Wiltshire were left in little doubt again that the current crop of players are putting their bodies on the line for the club.

After shipping three at Oldham, and then continually allowing the Robins to get in behind during an open start to Saturday’s stalemate, the defensive solidity that followed Hollands’ OG was heartening to watch.

Rob Jones, who also played through the pain barrier, was for once outshone as reluctant centre back Tommy Spurr won every header and read the game brilliantly, while James Husband produced another mature display at left back.

However, Rovers’ back-line were indebted to Gary Woods who produced his best display yet in a Doncaster shirt.

His handling immaculate, Woods punched away danger time after time as Ritchie’s teasing right wing centres rained in on him. He went full stretch to his right to palm away Ritchie’s long distance drive, and even came out to act as sweeper, denying Andy Williams with a slide tackle after Sammy Clingan’s back pass left him as the only man to beat.

By no means was this a good display from Doncaster.

They lacked tenacity in the middle, failed to hold the ball up and did not get David Cotterill into the game.

But it was yet another away performance full of spirit, desire and solid graft.

In Hume, Rovers have a player who reminds their manager of himself.

Making his move permanent from Preston could be the difference between finishing sixth or seventh, second or third.

Dean Saunders might not have been the most naturally gifted forward of his era, but he was unrelenting in his work ethic and also clinical when he got a chance in front of goal.

And Doncaster Rovers have quickly evolved into a team that clearly reflect their manager in his playing heyday.

More hard earned points on the road like this, combined with more clinical finishing at home, and Saunders might just bring some of the success he enjoyed as a player to the Keepmoat Stadium.

But just like Messrs Hume and Jones, infallible as the pair appear, Rovers will no doubt take plenty more knocks along the way too.