Analysis & Highlights: Rovers 1 Crawley 1 - Playing catch-up again, case for the defence & Fergie on kit clash
It was a case of the good, the bad and the downright ugly as Doncaster Rovers drew their opening league game at the Keepmoat Stadium with Crawley Town.
James Coppinger’s classy equaliser, a superb first-time strike from Matty Blair’s corner, one straight from the training ground, stood out like a sore thumb on an afternoon in which Rovers showed precious little quality.
Darren Ferguson’s slow starters had the better of the second half but the only other good thing to come from this game was that Doncaster got off the mark. They could so easily have tasted defeat for the third time in eight days.
Following on from the three soft goals shipped at Accrington, Rovers continue to pay the penalty for bad defending.
This time James Collins was the beneficiary as he tapped Crawley into a deserved 26th-minute lead, after the visitors got in down the left and Jason Bantom’s cross squirmed under the grasp of Ross Etheridge.
The ugly? Well the boos that rang out at half-time said everything about an abject first half display that lacked any sort of purpose, cohesion, energy and obvious plan.
Whether it is down to the injury-ravaged pre-season, new players still bedding in, or adapting to new tactics and ideas, Rovers’ return to the fourth tier is not yet going to plan and the natives are already restless.
PLAYING CATCH UP, AGAIN
Ultimately Crawley were quite pleased with a point against one of the promotion favourites, as Rovers at least recovered from a hopeless first 45 minutes to gain something of a stranglehold in the game.
But the result might have been different had the visitors gone for the kill and doubled their lead before the break.
The impressive Bantom saw an effort deflected just wide, while Enzio Boldewijn hit a shot onto the roof of the net from the angle of the box.
Crawley passed the ball with so much more conviction and care, and had they gone 2-0 up Rovers could have had few complaints.
The home side were simply not at the races, and it was difficult to make out any obvious gameplan or pattern of play.
Perhaps Doncaster had wrongly assumed that Crawley would simply get men behind the ball and make life difficult? They did anything but that.
That is now three games out of three this season in which have they gone behind, a horrible habit of last season that needs kicking.
A CASE FOR THE DEFENCE
Rovers are making life difficult for themselves with their defending, but the early-season rustiness is perhaps only to be expected after the injury problems with Mathieu Baudry, Craig Alcock, Luke McCullough, Joe Wright and now Niall Mason, who went off with a knee injury.
Darren Ferguson has fielded a different back five in each of the opening three games, and the same back five is yet to finish 90 minutes still intact.
The sooner Doncaster get a settled backline, the better.
Whether they are getting the best out of Matty Blair and Riccardo Calder by playing them at wing-back is open to debate.
FERGIE’S KIT CLASH QUIP
Ferguson joked after the game: “There was a bit of a problem at the start of the game. My players were saying the shirts were very similar.
“I said to the fourth official: ‘Do you want us to change into our away kit?’ He said: ‘It’s too late.’ I said: ‘It’s not too late. Ask the referee if we can change.’ But I can’t use that an excuse.
“I think my dad tried that once, with the grey shirt at Southampton, but I don’t think I’ll try that one about the shirts!”