Doncaster must look ahead

Saturday 26th October 2013 12:21

Paul Dickov: Has had a tough run

Paul Dickov: Has had a tough run

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Doncaster FanZoner Daniel Nice says that the team need to start picking up points if they are to stay away from the relegation trap door.

Three weeks on from the excellent 1-0 win against Leicester City, Doncaster Rovers have suffered two heavy defeats on the road against Reading and Middlesbrough. Many of those players who did us so proud against the Foxes are now facing criticism from all quarters.

In some senses, if you reserve the poorest performance of the season for the television cameras then you are asking for the world and his wife to have a pop at you. However, sometimes you have to look beyond your own inadequacies to get a sense of the bigger picture.

The focus was always going to be on Middlesbrough on Friday night. With Tony Mowbray leaving and a home game in front of Sky, this was their chance for a fresh start. Mark Venus was always going to make a host of changes and the players were always going to go out of their way to impress.

Boro needed a positive passing start and a goal as quick as possible, followed by another before half-time. They then needed a clincher so that they did not have the prospect of a dodgy last twenty minutes. Rovers followed that script like Hollywood actors and even allowed the softest of fourth goals from a corner to put the icing on the home side's cake.

Venus could not have planned it better had he written it out beforehand. Although a Middlesbrough man to the core, Mowbray must have cut a frustrated figure if he was watching the game somewhere. Why did his players save their best for when he left? He won't be the first or last manager to pose this question.

A banner with Mowbray's face, together with the slogan 'take us to the moon' was still hanging up at the Riverside. Appropriately with Venus in charge, this squad looked like they had come from a different planet to the one the former favourite had previously been operating on.

For Paul Dickov, this is now a case of his side being brought back down to Earth with a huge bump following the Leicester heroics.

Let's get one thing straight, this had nothing to do with passion/desire/wanting it more as it has been suggested in some quarters. Although our enthusiasm tailed off as the game went on, that was understandable. For when you spend most of the evening chasing your tail, eventually you are bound to give up the search.

Middlesbrough were excellent, with their front four of Albert Adomah, Marvin Emnes, Kai Kamara and Mustapha Carayol running rings around the Doncaster defence - and midfield - as large as the ones that go around Saturn. While the Rovers rearguard can generally handle the route one football you often get at this level, we simply could not cope with pace and movement of that quality.

That was based on an impressive midfield duo of Grant Leadbitter and Richard Smallwood and Boro's defence looked solid too. Rovers had their moments, and had James Coppinger scored after four minutes and if Rob Jones could have halved the arrears right on half-time, this would have been a different game.

But that is clutching at straws to some extent. While I am willing to accept that the scoreline flattered Reading to some extent last week, we can't hide behind another four-goal concession and claim bad luck.

Had it not been for Ross Turnbull, it would have been even worse. We looked terrible at the back, conceded possession in bad areas and while we looked bright coming forward at times, we never really looked like scoring. Something tells me these are not exactly the qualities that Championship survival bids are based on.

We may not have the cash to be able to have huge strength in depth but we must do certain basic things a lot better if we want to survive. Conceding two ridiculously poor goals from set pieces is unacceptable. Being out of position is unacceptable. Sloppy passing on the edge of your own box is unacceptable, whether you are spending millions on players or nothing.

Dickov will need to look at his approach because while it is admirable to try to play the right way and take the game to the opposition, it is also foolhardy at times. A neat passing approach in central areas with a lack of cutting edge, combined with a vulnerability to counter attacks, is not a recipe for success at this level.

As for the players, they are an honest group and while some had absolute nightmares, there is no point highlighting their failures. It would be lovely to be able to plan an entire campaign at this level but we don't have the resources. We simply have to take it one game at a time and not read too much into any of it.

If you win, it must be put it to one side because if you think you've cracked it, a couple of hammerings are just around the corner - and if you dwell on them, you'll get a couple more. It's a case of putting each game in a box, taking whatever positives you can find - one suggests Mark Duffy's performance fitted into this category - and moving onto the next one.

We could analyse this one to death but the simple fact is that Middlesbrough were a class above us. Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say you were beaten by the better team, and this was one of those occasions.

Rather than say that players weren't trying, why don't we accept it was a gulf in inspiration rather than perspiration? It's important Rovers continue to try to shoot for the stars and not get put off too much by defeats like this one.

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