DONCASTER have enjoyed a positive start to their 2018/19 League One campaign and EFL lover Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) explains why he sees them as a team to get behind.
One To Watch – Why Doncaster can challenge for top League One honours
The general rule of football is that if you have more possession, more shots and more shots on-target than your opponents in most games, you will generally win more than you lose.
Simple, perhaps, but it’s a formula that could pay dividends for Doncaster Rovers.
Firstly, they have had more possession than their opponents in all six of their league games with an average of 55% and the key to this is Benjamin Whiteman.
Last season, the ex-Mansfield technician didn’t quite have the influence he might have hoped to have because Darren Ferguson wanted midfielders to play short, square passes; only releasing the shackles on them intermittently.
With more simplistic midfielders Jordan Houghton and Luke McCullough at MK Dons and Tranmere respectively, Whiteman has been freed up and – without an obvious holding midfielder – there is more spontaneity in the movement off the ball, thus making it harder for opponents to know who to pin-down.
McCann's men dominating the data
New boss Grant McCann wants fluidity in his side, but he’s not afraid to dish out a rollicking when things aren’t going well.
The ex-Peterborough boss fumed with his players after the first-half at Southend on day one, when star keeper Marko Marosi kept them level at the break; he said he didn’t recognise the players he had worked with over pre-season.
After half-time, a largely dominant second-half helped Rovers to a 3-2 victory which provided a confidence boost.
Since that day, Doncaster have been able to implement McCann’s ideas more consistently: they have out-shot their opponents 72 to 47 across five games; 14 to nine on average.
They have had 27 shots on-target to their opponents’ 17 – five to three on average – which is a big advantage that Rovers consistently have over their opponents in most games.
Marquis the man to fire Rovers forward
John Marquis remains the obvious threat and is 25/1 with Betfair to become the division’s Top Goalscorer in 2018/19.
While last season, he scored 14 goals despite having his team-mates a long way behind him – especially in the first-half of games – this year, he has better service.
Support comes in the form of the mobile Mallik Wilks, who appears to have learnt a lot from last season’s loan spells at Accrington and Grimsby, plus Alfie May, who has been doing extra work on his snapshots in training.
When one considers that attack-minded midfielders like the evergreen James Coppinger and the effervescent Tommy Rowe have also been at their creative best, then a return of seven goals perhaps undersells the threat Donny have posed.
Solid base puts Donny in promotion contention
Defensively, too, they have looked strong: the South Yorkshire outfit are yet to concede at home and have only fallen behind once on the road in the 1-0 defeat at Burton.
Andy Butler has long been an aerial beast at this level and centre-back partner Joe Wright is developing nicely too; a positive scan suggests his absence won’t extend beyond one game.
Left-back Danny Andrew, who has offered much-needed pace and width since returning from injury, is a doubt for Saturday’s hosting of Luton, which is not ideal with Danny Amos also sidelined; although Rowe has deputised there before.
Overall though, Doncaster have shown real potential; before ending two unbeaten records with positive performances in 1-1 draws with Portsmouth and Peterborough, they attained a very respectable seven points from four games.
Maintain that form whilst becoming more clinical in front of goal and the team 9/1 for promotion with Betfair could be serious contenders.
Article published on 4th September.