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Challenge, Inspire and Motivate - Notes for Doncaster Rovers
Monday, 27th Sep 2021 15:01 by TomTheWriter

Looking ahead to Ipswich Town’s second home game in four days as bottom club Doncaster visit Portman Road, TomTheWriter assesses the mood in the opposition camp.

Off the back of Ipswich Town’s late equaliser against Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, they host another league game at Portman Road looking for a second victory of the campaign.

Their opponents, Doncaster Rovers, sit bottom of League One with only one win to their name, the same as the Tractor Boys. However, they find themselves three points worse off.

So far this season, Rovers have picked up one win, one draw and six defeats from their opening eight games, struggling for goals as they visit Portman Road with the worst ‘goals scored’ record in League One.

Last season, Fejiri Okenabirhie had a stellar season leading the frontline, Taylor Richards was a shining light going forward, before returning to parent club Brighton, and Tom Anderson was imperious in defence.

Richie Wellens

“At the end of the day, [Richie] Wellens has signed 11 players with the budget the board gave him - including extra funds released to him to sign [Dan] Gardner”, “Wellens will not get them playing well as he behaved like a spoilt child at times today”, “Wellens very intelligent and fully appreciates the club’s financial position and wants to be seen as compliant as far as staying within the constraints laid down. It isn’t his fault that things are not going to plan with Covid-19 or injuries or even the [Omar] Bogle saga.”

Former Town loan midfielder and Manchester United youngster Wellens took over as manager of Doncaster in the summer of 2021 after a short-lived spell with Salford City in League Two.

“I can’t wait to see how we play in the second half of the season and next season when the missing pieces will be added and Wellens has been able to get them free flowing”, “Wellens has to get to grip with his players and put it on the training ground and work out what players positions are going to cause problems”, “As for Wellens, he absolutely has to start turning this around soon. If the injured players come back and nothing changes then questions will need to be asked. I’ll reserve judgment until then.”

Rovers’ start to the season hasn’t been the strongest with Wellens overseeing a large turnover of players to suit his style of play. He likes his teams to play free-flowing football, but it hasn’t been paying off too much at the beginning of the campaign.

Tough Final Few Months

“The season is over. Can't turn this around”, “We can be critical of [Darren Moore] but for that tricky first period last season he did well with the players he had”, “I thought we were lucky in the first half of the season, scraping wins with backs-to-the-wall performances. The writing was on the wall, I don't agree that he did well.”

The Reds had a very successful season last year under Moore until his departure in early March to leave for the Owls. His final game was a 2-1 defeat to Town, before centre-half Andy Butler took over for the rest of the season with the club in the play-off places.

“Darren Moore brought in a lot of this dead wood. Point your fingers at him not Butler”, “At the end of the day, Moore was left with a very strong League One back four, the best midfielder in the league, arguably the best striker in the league, good players like [Kieran] Sadlier, [Alfie] May, [Ali] Crawford, [Matty] Blair. What he’s left us with is nothing like as good as he inherited, once the loans have returned we have a very small, tepid squad”, “Last season was a bit of a one-off and not something that defines us”, “We saw last season what happened when players went into their shells.”

However, Butler was unable to keep their season going, winning only four of his 18 league games, leaving the club in 14th place at the end of the season.

The Squad

With Wellens inheriting Moore’s squad this summer, he got to work quickly to make the Rovers squad his own.

Versatile defender Reece James departed for the Championship with Blackpool, with right-back Brad Halliday switching the Keepmoat for the Highbury Stadium and Fleetwood.

Doncaster’s use of the loan market was impressive for the majority of last season as they saw 10 players depart at the end of their temporary stays, including star man Richards and Scott Robertson.

From the squad that ended the 2020/21 season, five of the starting XI remain from their 4-1 humbling at home to Peterborough on the final day with three of the bench still at the club.

The club’s strength in depth has been questioned by a core of the fanbase but with some also suggesting that it is strong enough for this league. “Tough team to pick after the last two games, much better strength and depth so competition for places is high”, “As tonight shows we haven’t any strength in depth and we’d need to score six or seven”, “What they also had was strength in depth. That is where we are clearly lacking.”

However, there are a lot of weaknesses identified on the forums, with the key focus on the recruitment this summer.

“To be fair it's probably hard to narrow it down to one weakness right now!”, “We clearly haven’t addressed the glaring weaknesses on the pitch and concerned that not everything is working as it ought to be on the recruitment side”, “Bringing in essential additions given the obvious weaknesses in the squad.”

Plymouth Argyle 2-1 Doncaster Rovers

“I’m gutted, Richie will be gutted, but we weren’t ‘turned over’ and while I’ve no doubt some will harp on about us still being bottom, a result against Ipswich on Tuesday, which looking at them and looking at Plymouth, isn’t out of the realms of possibility and we start to climb”, “We are not a bad team. We will not be relegated this season”, “It’s small progress but performance-wise it is getting slowly better.”

“First penalty was for a foul by [Kyle] Knoyle”, “Second came about when [Pontus] Dahlberg made a mess of an easy catch and then tripped”, “Both pens so unnecessary as Plymouth were barely a threat in the second half and we had more than enough chances to see off the bumpkins after we'd gone in front. Argyle look in a false position but we're exactly where we are going to end up if we keep throwing points away like this.”

Doncaster’s late 2-1 defeat to Plymouth came off the back of two straight victories in all competitions, but they were unable to make it three. They made one change from their 1-0 win over Morecambe in the league, with Rodrigo Vilca making way for Tiago Cukur.

Doncaster Rovers 2-1 Man City U21

“I know the Man City team were young lads but they were pretty impressive and we did well to beat them. Hopefully things are starting to improve for us and fingers crossed for Plymouth on Saturday!”, “This sounds like a very good result and performance”, “Nice to see a striker score - think that’s the first time this season?”

“What a talented group they were, excellent battling performance from us and we looked good going forward. Well done Rovers”, “Really enjoyed that, the ref threatened to ruin it just after half-time but excellent performance”, “To win and come from behind hopefully is a boost to confidence. Go to Plymouth and even get a draw and we’ve had a decent week results-wise.”

The South Yorkshire side’s Papa John’s Trophy campaign continued with a 2-1 victory over Manchester City’s U21s after their 6-0 humiliation at home to Rotherham United in their first game.


“Louis Jones did OK, a few routine saves but wasn’t overly troubled”, “I don’t think Jones is ready but [Dahlberg] can’t have that many errors”, “Kept giving them the ball, mistake after mistake, Jones wasn’t strong enough from the corners either.”

Young goalkeeper Jones took over from Ellery Balcombe for the final games of last season and was handed the number one shirt this season. Currently behind Dahlberg, but could be pushing him for a starting spot soon.

player stats

“I think Dahlberg will be in a higher division next season and will get 50+ full caps [for Sweden]”, “Dahlberg should lose his spot now as Balcombe did after Accrington last year”, “If he's making mistakes like that we might as well play Jones.”

On loan from Watford, Dahlberg has been Doncaster’s number one for the league games this season, but has made a few mistakes in his last couple of games that could see the door open for Jones.


“Really impressed with the lad, first time I’ve seen him and you can see he’s got a certain level of pedigree. He was really good on the ball; however he didn’t face many high balls - that was down to the opposition - think Richie has brought us in a little gem”, “[Joseph] Olowu was excellent at the back, blocked everything and was comfortable on the ball”, “Both [Jordy] Hiwula and Olowu look off the pace.”

Centre-half Olowu, released from Arsenal this summer, joined Rovers after the window closed to add another option to their defence. He was on trial with Manchester United’s academy in August, but now finds himself in Yorkshire.

“Jury out on [Ro-Shaun] Williams at the back.” Another defender signed this season, Williams left fellow League One side Shrewsbury Town for pastures new at the Keepmoat Stadium. Has featured in every league game this season, and looks to be forming a partnership with Tom Anderson. “Fans’ report cards when we signed Williams were that he was quick but had poor positioning”, “Williams is terrifying.”

“After the break [Cameron] John seemed to play as a wing-back and couldn’t cross for toffee. Imagine someone else having the opportunity to cross those balls? The thing is it isn't his natural position so just put them into the stands”, “Just when we started to see the real Cameron John, this happens particularly when we need it least. Feel for him as he seems to be a great lad too”, “He always gives his best, always wants the ball and never, ever hides no matter how badly things may be going.”

Young defender John joined Doncaster permanently last season, having spent the 2019/20 season on loan from Wolves. Able to play at centre-back and left-back, but looks to be more comfortable in the middle.

“Will Charlie Seaman be presented with the Goal of the Month for August at the next home game.” Another young defender, Seaman scored Doncaster’s first goal this season in his first game for the club. He spent time with Maidstone United last season, before pushing for a starting spot this year. “On the crossing point Seaman was struggling”, “Seaman was all over the pitch this afternoon.”

“[Branden] Horton doesn’t look good enough for me, certainly at this moment in time. I know he’s a young player, but he was turned inside out at Rotherham the other week”, “Horton has had as many games where he looked decent as poor in my opinion”, “This is not picking on Horton but he is not ready for the first team.”

Continuing the theme of young defenders, Horton looks to be battling Tommy Rowe, brother of former Blues man Danny, for the left-back position this season and with the latter showing his goalscoring capabilities further forward, he may get a few more opportunities.


“Kyle Knoyle did a great job at right-back”, “Knoyle looks good going forward but less solid defensively”, “Still undecided on Knoyle maybe needs a few more games at this level.”

Sigend from Cambridge United this summer, Knoyle was the stand-out right-back in the fourth tier last season and was named in the League Two Team of the Season for his impressive displays.

player stats

“Knoyle hasn’t done anything to show he is more than a League Two full-back”, “Knoyle looks promising though”, “Potential there to come good.”

At only 25-years-old, Knoyle has a long career ahead of him at right-back and has the potential to go a lot higher than the bottom-end of League One. Will be a key battle between him and our left winger on Tuesday.


“[Tom] Anderson isn’t the same player he was 18 months ago”, “Good to have Anderson back in the squad”, “Anderson has been garbage for ages.”

A player splitting opinion across the fanbase, Anderson formed a strong partnership with Joe Wright last season before the latter’s serious injury near the end of the campaign. Has had his own injury problems this season as well.

player stats

“Anderson is a big loss when not there because we miss his physicality and his leadership at the back”, “We have a brand new squad with, at the moment, only Anderson as the consistent player from last season”, “Anderson’s distribution is poor, caught in possession, too slow.”

The current Doncaster captain has played the last two league games, but missed the previous four games before that with injury. Defensively is where Doncaster look to be at their most vulnerable this season.


“Be good to see if [AJ] Greaves can make it until half-time”, “[Ed] Williams, Bogle and Greaves are nowhere near the standard we require to move on. Yet are getting paid from last season’s regimes”, “AJ Greaves gets stuck and we do need someone like that.”

Young midfielder Anthony ‘AJ’ Greaves, has featured on three occasions this season, including being sent off in the Carabao Cup defeat to Stoke City. Backs-up a strong midfield at the club.

“He’s so neat and tidy on the ball, turns so sharply! He’s definitely going to be a championship player if not higher!”, “Neither team could keep hold of the ball, [Ethan] Galbraith being possibly the main culprit”, “Galbraith was non-existent today.”

Another loanee in the squad, Galbraith has joined the club on loan from Manchester United for the season and already looks to be a talented player in the midfield. Having formed a strong partnership with players like Ben Close and Matt Smith, the midfield looks to be Doncaster’s strongest area.

“I wonder if Covid could still be affecting [John] Bostock’s fitness?” Journeyman Bostock arrived at the Keepmoat last season, having spent time in France, Turkey and Belgium. The one-time highly-rated former Crystal Palace and Tottenham youngster struggled to find a home and looks to be behind a few players in the pecking order. “I’m expecting Bostock to be the difference and help us to win this”, “Bostock looked lazy.”

player imageJohn Bostock

“[Dan] Gardner was brought in as a squad player the same as [Aiden] Barlow, there will be games this season where his experience in League One will come in handy and his versatility is good for the squad”, “As well as Gardner who was very good in midfield”, “If you can question one decision I’d say it’s the panicked acquisition of Gardner to get another body in.”

One of the man players signed by Wigan Athletic as they battled to stay in League One last season, Gardner was let go to join Rovers this summer. Was seen as an odd signing at the time, Gardner offers some experience to a fairly young midfield.

“[Ben] Close has been disappointing”, “Ben Close is a class act, he won’t get the plaudits from many but if you watch him closely he is a very intelligent player”, “Just keeps it simple, does the basics very well.”

Arguably one of Doncaster’s best signings this season, Close left Portsmouth in the summer to join Wellens’s revolution. A very tidy player in the middle of the park, will look to keep things ticking on Tuesday night.

“Ed Williams on a two-year-deal was an investment which has been a complete waste”, “Ed Williams had one offer from a National League North side”, “Will be interesting if we try and loan Ed Williams to a National League or National North/South side.”

Another option in the middle of the park, Williams joined Doncaster last season from Kidderminster Harriers. Looks to be very far down the pecking order with opinion among the fanbase not the highest.

“[Jon] Taylor was crap when played last season”, “When and if Fejiri and Taylor come back in, then we have more strings to our bow so every reason to be optimistic”, “Giving three-year extension deals to players like Taylor is irrational.”

Last season, Taylor was a solid performer for Donny on the right wing, but he has been out with an injury since the season ended and hasn’t featured for the club yet this season. Unlikely to play tomorrow night.

“Aiden Barlow is on a cheap contract by the sounds of it, may get better but not done anything so far”, “Both Gardner and Barlow don’t look League One players”, “Barlow and Gardner will not be on big wages.”

The man of many goals in pre-season, under the name ‘Trialist,’ Barlow was released by Manchester United this summer, before joining Doncaster this season. Hasn’t found his shooting boots yet and looks to be another back-up option in the midfield.

“[Rodrigo] Vilca is a Peruvian Kyle Bennett.” The Peruvian-born, Newcastle United winger Vilca arrived at the Keepmoat with much intrigue on deadline day, but has struggled to kick the team’s season into gear. “Has Vilca had a chance to show anything promising?”, “Vilca looks an exciting prospect.”


“As soon as [Tommy] Rowe moved into a more advanced position, things started to open up. He's wasted at full-back”, “I just think Rowe gives you that extra experience in the midfield”, “Could it be Rowe not playing in the right position?”

The stand-out signing for Doncaster this season, Rowe re-joined the club after two years away. A very versatile option, he has filled in at left-back this season as he shows both his defensive and attacking credentials.

player stats

“Welcome back Tommy. He is the best footballer in the club now, taking over that mantle from [James Coppinger]”, “The problem is the midfield plus Tommy Rowe is not a left-back!”, “Rowe is quality but is he a left-back?”

The issue for the majority of the fanbase, is that they feel Tommy Rowe is wasted as a left-back and should be playing further up the field. Has two goals to his name this season, will be interesting if he is battling Wes Burns or Janoi Donacien on Tuesday.

Centre Midfielder

“I actually thought [Matt] Smith played well on Saturday, had been poor in most games I’ve seen of him so far but I thought against Morecambe he pressed really and won the ball high up the pitch several times”, “Matt Smith is too lightweight”, “We didn’t press once yesterday and Smith looked knackered after 20 minutes.”

The fourth loanee spoken about so far, Arsenal youngster Smith spent last season on loan with both Swindon Town and Charlton Athletic, finding more success with the former. Now with Doncaster, he is highly likely to be looking for a permanent home soon.

player stats

“He's been criticised a little on here in the past but he's just a young man at a new club making his way in the game. I was very encouraged with his performance today”, “I actually thought Smith was excellent today and showed some real classy touches”, “Not sure why Smith was played in an advanced position.”

Having struggled for game-time at the beginning of the season, Smith has started the club’s last four league games as he builds a relationship with Ben Close and Ethan Galbraith.


“The Omar Bogle debacle cannot be good for team morale which only makes the situation worse”, “He was certainly not happy with Bogle and am not surprised”, “The way in which the manager has isolated Bogle has made the entire situation like an anvil around Wellens own neck as well as the club’s.”

A player highly tipped for success early in his career, Bogle has struggled to find a place to call home, much like Bostock. Currently on the outside looking in at the Keepmoat with Wellens seemingly unwilling to use him this season.

“Is [Joe] Dodoo the new Ivan Toney? Looks and plays very similar to me. As he gets up to speed I think we have a very good player”, “Dodoo could be a big player for us”, “Maybe at a push you could say Dodoo was a positive.”

The only other player with two goals for Doncaster this season, Dodoo is another to have left Wigan to join Rovers. Utilised across the front three, Dodoo has looked the most dangerous attacker in their most recent games.

“[Jordy] Hiwula back from injury who can now provide the ammunition we have been so badly lacking so far this season”, “Hiwula caught the eye”, “Let’s not forget we did sign Hiwula who can play left side and down the middle.”

Versatile option Hiwula, like Close, was part of Portsmouth’s squad that just missed out on the play-offs last season. Now, he finds himself at Doncaster, hitting the net for the first time in their last game against Plymouth.

“I just can't see how [Tiago] Cukur is up to League One standard. He runs like he's just finished the London Marathon”, “Cukur has to get better if he can get fit, he’s a strong enough lad”, “Cukur, despite his unwillingness to shoot, did more in his cameo than [Dodoo and Hiwula].”

The fifth and final loanee in the Doncaster squad, Cukur has joined his fellow Hornet Dahlberg at Rovers for the season. An exciting attacker, Cukur is looking for his first goal of the season having missed only one league game this season.


“Hopefully the team can perform better when Okenabirhie and Taylor are back”, “Fejiri Okenabirhie has eight-to-12 weeks out with an achilles issue.”

Star man last season, Okenabirhie has missed the entirety of the campaign so far with an achilles problem, from which he should return in either October or November.

player stats

“We have been desperate for a striker for six weeks or more since Okenabirhie got injured and probably needed one as well as him given Bogle's performances last season and to date”, “Definitely think Okenabirhie can have a big season.”

His absence has been a big miss for Doncaster as they find themselves having bagged only four goals from their first eight league games. Scoring goals has been their issue, so they will need a solid defence on Tuesday if they’re to claim anything from their visit to Portman Road.

Doncaster Rovers Fans on ITFC

“Ipswich is probably our best chance to get something, but it will be tough”, “Do I expect Ipswich to turn things around? Yes. Do I believe we can turn things around? Yes.”

“Look at Ipswich’s turnover of players and see how they’ve started the season and that’s with the luxury of a big budget and the clout to attract good players”, “Richie did say that Ipswich would have a budget seven times bigger than ours.”


“Even if we stay up, that would be well below expectations even in a "rebuild year”, “I really think we need to manage some of our own expectations on here”, “I guess we are all going to have to change our immediate expectations and embrace a bloody good dogfight were every point gained is a reason to celebrate.”


The only forum for a Doncaster Rovers fan is Viking Chat. A detailed account of all things Rovers with a large number of viewers each week.

Photo: Action Images

Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.

SamWhiteUK added 15:48 - Sep 27
"Ipswich is probably our best chance to get something"

I feel more context is needed here

Big_Steve added 19:35 - Sep 27
@samwhiteuk context?! based on our results and the amount of bitching done (rightly or wrongly) about Cook and his (lack of) tactical nous, I'd say they think we're 5hite and are there for the taking.

tmiller12 added 08:21 - Sep 28
Cheers Tom, great read again and definitely adding to my pre-match experience

bluesteal74 added 14:02 - Sep 28
Thanks Tom great read as always. Come on Town we need to get that first home win tonight COYB 🚜🚜🚜

vanmunt added 15:36 - Sep 28
Great job Tom.

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