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Successive Failures With Successive Managers and Successive Squads - Notes for Doncaster Rovers
Monday, 7th Feb 2022 15:00 by TomTheWriter

After victory over Gillingham at the weekend, Town face Doncaster, another side in relegation trouble, and TomTheWriter assesses the mood in the opposition camp.

With five wins from the first seven games of his tenure, Kieran McKenna takes his side to South Yorkshire as they look to close the gap to the play-offs, which currently sits at eight points.

Their opponents, Doncaster Rovers, are bottom of League One under new management, but have picked up their form over the last month.

This season, Tommy Rowe has offered experience and versatility across multiple positions, Kyle Knoyle has shown an attacking threat from the right, with Matt Smith being a key driving force in the midfield.

Gary McSheffrey

“[Gary] McSheffrey has been in the job just over a month. He has been trusted by the board to make eight signings to make some attempt to stay up but to also in my opinion start the process of building for next season. Yet the game against Rotherham was awful and effectively spineless”, “As manager of Rovers, McSheffrey surely cannot get the job for next season if the results carry on like this?”, “I really do think we have a guy in McSheffrey who is astute, obviously on a steep learning curve, but who is intelligent and, given a decent amount of time, can really put something special together at Rovers.”

Having started the season as the club’s U18s manager, McSheffrey was moved to the caretaker position following the sacking of Richie Wellens in December. After a further four games in charge, he was appointed manager on a permanent deal.

“We need to stick with McSheffrey for the same reason. He has a vision and I think it’s a good one and definitely doable”, “Gary McSheffrey will need to persevere with his ideas though now, because playing other teams for percentages is pointless. We are down, learn about how you want to play and teach those players to work as one unit in preparation for next season”, “In Gary McSheffrey, I think we have an excellent manager in the making.”

In his first senior managerial position McSheffrey will be looking to guide his Donny side away from the relegation zone. If not, he will be trusted to bring them back up from League Two next season.

The State of Play

“Successive failures with successive managers and successive squads suggests the problems are elsewhere”, “I know we’ve made a lot of signings but they’ve not really helped. It’s all ifs, buts and maybes, but all the signings we’ve made have hardly been playing and it sadly shows”, “The effort has improved for sure bar tonight, it was always going to be hard we have signed loads of players.”

As it stands, Doncaster find themselves in 24th place in League One with six wins, four draws and 20 defeats from their 30 games.

“We should at least be competitive even if we're by far the inferior team”, “How have we as a well-run and stable club with decent finances in the space of 12 months become a total laughing stock that was by mid-January already relegated?”, “Someone at the club has to take responsibility for this.”

Donny sit 15 places and 22 points behind Town heading into the fixture on Tuesday night, with a victory over the hosts keeping the Blues in touch with the play-offs.

The Squad

Strength-wise, Doncaster have added a couple of numbers to their attacking ranks in the last few weeks of the January transfer window, with new signing Reo Griffiths scoring at the weekend.

Their weakest position looks to be their defence with the club shipping 58 goals from their 22 games this season. They’ve looked to strengthen that area, but have conceded nine goals in the last three games.

In terms of their squad strength, Doncaster fans have found little to be positive about this season.

“If we can keep [Tom] Anderson then we should - he strengthens the spine of the team significantly”, “We now have some good individuals but need to develop understanding and a pattern which plays to the strengths of the individuals”, “Reo will be a star if we play to his strengths.”

However, they have found plenty of negatives. “We need some experience in the team, it's clearly a weakness”, “Our left flank was the defensive weakness yesterday along with a non-existent midfield”, “Weak from crosses, soft under belly, not enough quality crosses in the box or people in there to get on the end of it.”

Sunderland 1-2 Doncaster Rovers

“Easily the best moment of the season. Enjoy it”, “First time in our history beating Sunderland and what a bloody time to do it as well! Not the prettiest performance but a dogged one that has seen us grind out a win, back to back away wins for the first time in as long as I can remember”, “Enjoyed watching that, we played well had a bit of luck but we deserved it, we looked more organised and had a game plan.”

“With the goal difference we are nine points from safety, with the performance today there is hope we can get out of it”, “Brilliant result and performance. Particularly on the back of Tuesday’s heavy defeat”, “Full marks to McSheffrey and the squad for not letting that affect them. Sounds like [Jonathan] Mitchell had a great game which tells us we should judge a book from the first page. In Reo maybe we have unearthed someone who relishes scoring goals.”

In the most surprising result of the weekend, bottom-of-the-league Doncaster defeated promotion-chasing Sunderland at the Stadium of Light with new signing Griffiths and Tommy Rowe scoring for the visitors.

Doncaster Rovers 0-5 Rotherham United

“We are utterly dreadful”, “Playing one of the best teams in this division from a position of negative transition. Not sure who on here expected a dominant performance and victory?”, “To a man they look absolutely pathetic. At least in Saturday they showed some enthusiasm to run, challenge and create chances. What’s happening?”

“Keep saying this every week but [Branden] Horton cannot defend, got to drag him at half-time. The rest haven’t been much better. This is as bad as anything we’ve dished up this season”, “Think he tried to match them up but the problem with that is we're then relying on us been better individually that them. They are at the top for a reason we are at the bottom for a reason”, “I don’t think even the most optimistic fan would say we have a chance now.”

In classic Jekyll and Hyde fashion, Doncaster travelled to Sunderland after a 5-0 thrashing at home to South Yorkshire rivals Rotherham United.


“GMC probably played Mitchell to protect [Louis] Jones who had already conceded six in the Papa John’s Trophy game at home to Rotherham”, “Had Jones really had so much of a stinker on Saturday that Mitchell was the answer even though that meant throwing the whole keeper/defence dynamic up in the air?”, “Puts his faith in Jones and then drops him because he can't communicate effectively on the pitch!”

Young goalkeeper Jones was the number one goalkeeper at the back end of last season, but found himself being deputy to Pontus Dahlberg for the first few months of the season. Came back in since November before missing the last two games.

player stats

“To be fair Mitchell has been in the top three of worst keepers I have seen in a Cobblers shirt over the past 45 years [having been on loan at Northampton last season] and we have obviously had some bad ones!”, “Mitchell had a mare last night”, “He picked Mitchell because he thinks he’s a better goalkeeper.”

After Dahlberg’s loan was terminated, Doncaster acted quickly to replace the on-loan Watford man with Mitchell from Hartlepool, who he had joined in the summer. Struggled against Rotherham, but had a strong game against Sunderland.


“In terms of ratings, [Charlie] Seaman should have got no more than zero out of 10 last night. What a waste of space”, “Watching a different game to me, he would’ve covered more ground than anyone last night, and on numerous occasions he cleared danger at the far post”, “I thought Seaman played well, some of his defending at the back post in the first half was very good.”

Young defender Seaman burst onto the scene at the beginning of the season, scoring on his debut against AFC Wimbledon. Has missed a large chunk of the season, but has featured in the last seven league games.

“[Joseph] Olowu has done OK but these kids need managing, they can’t be expected to play week-in, week-out to a good level”, “This would give better protection to the full-backs, Olowu in a defensive midfield role in front of the centre-halves”, “There's a lot of scope for improvement with Olowu. Pace and strength, not bad in the air and decent on the ball. Needs to improve with his positioning and dealing with balls into the box but he's got the makings of a good defender.”

Centre-back Olowu arrived late in the summer window and has been an ever-present in the backline for the past few months. Currently has three goals to his name.

“I do not rate [Oli] Younger. Sure, he’s a trier but gets pulled out of position lots and is not the strongest”, “Olowu and Younger both have potential to play at a higher level but the mistakes in their game are because of inexperience”, “We, in turn got dragged about with Olowu and Younger losing their positioning.”

Snapped up from Sunderland at the beginning of the year, Younger put in a man-of-the-match display on his debut against MK Dons. Has started all four games since his arrival and is likely to feature on Tuesday.

“[Ro-Shaun] Williams, to make us stronger defensively? He's one of the worst centre-backs I've ever seen in a Rovers shirt”, “I’d be tempted to put Williams back in if he’s fully fit. May sound mad but taking one of the young centre-halves out of the firing line for a couple of games may be wise”, “He scares me every time the ball is at his feet or when he tries to head it.”

Williams started every league game up until the end of October, but has only played twice in the last four months. Came in out of the wilderness for the game against Sunderland.

“We really need to look at centre midfield and probably left-back unless there's plans for Rowe to go back there”, “[Ethan] Galbraith, Smith and Rowe are all capable of receiving a ball from a throw-in, protecting it and passing or turning with it in possession”, “Hopefully those two and Tommy Rowe supporting any forward moves.”

The most experienced man in the dressing room, Rowe, the brother of former Blues winger Danny, has performed across multiple positions this season, covering at both left-back and in the midfield. Played in the centre on Saturday and scored.

player imageTommy Rowe

“Sit tight in the first half but then why play Horton who everyone knew would struggle”, “Horton is really shaky defensively and his poor touch led to their second goal, so think it’s time for [Ben] Jackson to come in”, “Sloppy touch from Horton as well.”

Another player to have spent long spells both in and out of the side, Horton had started the last 15 games before the weekend, scoring twice in that time. Not the biggest fan favourite.

“Jackson I thought would be certain to replace Horton, who is really struggling defensively”, “We need to stop crosses coming in so I think I’d start Jackson in place of Horton”, “Jackson should be starting.”

On loan from Huddersfield Town, Jackson spent the second half of last season on loan with Bolton Wanderers in League Two. Came in for his debut on Saturday after two appearances off the bench.


“[Kyle] Knoyle, in my opinion, has been dire all season. Half the time I didn’t even know he's playing”, “Only really Rowe and Knoyle who were first-choice under Wellens started tonight”, “I would go for Knoyle as an extra central defender.”

One of the best defenders in League Two last season, Knoyle made the decision to switch Cambridge United for Doncaster at the beginning of the campaign. Has played the most of any Donny player this season.

player stats

“Very fortunate that Knoyle was doing his job properly”, “Luckily Knoyle had the best game in a Rovers shirt and was on the line to clear it”, “Knoyle gets better and I would say his best game to date.”

At 25, right-back Knoyle has the potential to go a lot higher than the bottom-end of League One.


“Personally, and I suspect a bit of stick to come this way, I’d not be sad if Anderson doesn’t come back, shadow of his former self”, “You keep Anderson every day of the week. Yes, he was not the same after that injury last season but compared to what we have innumerably better”, “He is injured. Why do we get so many injuries?”

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 season. Has had his own injury problems this season as well.

player stats

“Both of them would benefit from having someone like Anderson alongside them”, “Hopefully [Adam] Clayton can come in and tighten up our midfield and if Anderson isn't far off returning that'll be huge”, “Sounded much like Tom Anderson at his very best.”

The current captain of Doncaster Rovers, Anderson has missed the last nine games with a foot injury diagnosed as a recurring plantar fascia injury he had earlier in the season.


“Almost as big a mystery as Ben Close. Any word on him recently? Gone very quiet”, “Any prognosis on Ben Close?”, “We’ve missed him recently, this was his first game back and he got injured in the first half and was subbed at half-time.”

With only one appearance in the last 20 games, Close has been dealing with a knee injury and a hamstring problem for the last few months. Looks to be aiming for a late-February return.

“[Ethan] Galbraith improved the team when he came on yesterday and looked to carry the ball forward”, “Galbraith has been carrying a niggle and had seemed out of sorts”, “When Galbraith came on this changed a bit. But neither full-back nor either centre-back wanted anything to do with coming short for the ball and offering a different look.”

One of the more impressive players in the Doncaster side this season, Galbraith is on loan from Manchester United for the year. Missed the game at the weekend.

“At least the [John] Bostock haters can't blame it all on him. The only player we've got with at least a semblance of a football brain”, “Here’s the thing. Bostock needs time. He might get 45 minutes before the opposition suss it out and close him out. Then we have no other solution”, “In that 45 minutes, Bostock needs movement from the front.”

Another midfielder who has been out of action for a while, Bostock’s last appearance came in November. Sustained a foot injury against Lincoln and was scheduled to be out for three months. Looks to be close to return to action.

“Would welcome [Dan] Gardner, he’d be perfect for a League Two scrap”, “Dan Gardner's best performance has come in central midfield too”, “Gardner was given a job to do and did it very well. Whatever his shortcomings, he’s a very experienced player and a reasonable physical unit, so in the position we’re in of course we’ve missed him being available.”

Like Bostock and Close, Gardner spent a long time on the sideline for Donny. Had played only three times in the last 23 games, before coming off the bench on Saturday. Could be in line for a start on Tuesday.

“Question marks over Mitchell and Clayton’s fitness but maybe both come good”, “Play Clayton from the off when he was no way ready for a game of that magnitude. Had he duped the management team into thinking as much?”, “I’m on the fence about Clayton but time will tell.”

Winter signing Clayton had been out of football for a few months, leaving Birmingham in November. Made his debut against Rotherham, before coming off after only a few minutes due to injury.

“[Aiden] Barlow isn't league standard”, “We could maybe extend Barlow's contract as a squad player who could improve”, “We know Barlow is a decent squad member - is it time to offer longer term contracts to these lads and build a proper squad for the future?”

player imageAidan Barlow

An impressive trialist in the summer, Barlow has been in an out of the side a fair amount this season with only one goal to his name. Has missed the last three games.

“The real puzzle for me was not playing [Josh] Martin although GM admitted that his game plan (such as it was) was blown by half-time and he had to move to damage limitation mode with his subs”, “Unless you count Martin but I'm unsure where his best position is as yet”, “Martin was another one where I didn’t understand him being dropped as he has been brilliant since signing.”

Another player to join Doncaster in January, Martin had spent the first half of the season on loan at MK Dons. The Norwich winger has looked strong since his arrival, but is yet to find the net.


“After [Fejiri] Okenabirhie, [Jordy] Hiwula has our best goalscoring rate. Gets nearly one in three at League One. It's just whether we can get that out of him”, “A fired up Hiwula in League Two wouldn’t be a bad option at all, I wouldn’t write him off just yet”, “Granted Hiwula has been massively disappointing but so has almost everyone this season.”

Had been a constant fixture under Richie Wellens, but hasn’t featured since the beginning of January. Has only one goal this season, which looks to be the reason for the fans’ frustrations towards him.

player stats

“As a winger or a striker, you’re largely dependent on what’s behind you, I’m not sure of this but maybe if Hiwula was to play in a side that wasn’t being totally schooled he might gain some confidence”, “Bit strange in my opinion, the situation with Hiwula. No news?”, “Hiwula can play up front too.”

After six games without featuring, Donny fans have been wondering where Hiwula has been. There is zero word on why he has been absent.

Centre Midfielder

“Players who are comfortable with the ball at their feet like Smith and Rowe may pay dividends”, “I think Smith gives us more energy going forward”, “Smith and Galbraith have proved useful, but the later last-minute make-up-the-numbers additions, [Tiago] Cukur and [Rodrigo] Vilca, were really failures, so a waste of money.”

On loan from Arsenal for the season, Smith has been an ever-present in the Doncaster side for the past four months. However, he is yet to convert his game-time into goals with zero to his name.

player stats

“Smith has a good engine and Galbraith has a lovely touch and pass but time and again we have looked short of that bit of nous”, “Great signing, loads of experience and will certainly help Smith and Galbraith and some of our other younger lads”, “If you look at our midfield options for next season, we don’t have Smith or Galbraith.”

This is Smith’s third loan spell in two years, having spent time at both Swindon Town and Charlton Athletic last season. He has improved his game over the campaign and has put himself in good stead to move up the League One table next season.


“[Joe] Dodoo and [Mipo] Odubeko look like wide forwards to get in the channels and hopefully pull defenders out of shape”, “Odubeko works very hard but simply doesn't look like he has any awareness of goal. At all. A bit like a more physically aggressive and energetic Cukur”, “Much more about him than Odubeko who I can see never scoring for us.”

One of three new attackers to have joined Doncaster in January, Odubeko spent the first half of the season on loan at Huddersfield Town. Now, he finds himself at Donny from West Ham for the season, but is yet to score.

“[Kieran] Agard is not fancied by the manager as we’re unbelievably sticking with Dodoo”, “Agard is yet to score despite starting to clock up appearances”, “Agard has gone from not playing to starting games, I think he needs to start on the bench, we don’t need more injuries.”

Signed from Plymouth Argyle last month, Agard is another new striker who is yet to find the back of the net, but missed the last two games against Rotherham and Sunderland.

“Griffiths looks a proper centre forward, his physical presence and awareness should allow him to have some success in the middle, but the ball needs to be on the floor”, “Griffiths another one who has potential, get him fit and get him on”, “New signing Griffiths will be available, he has to go straight in as an out-and-out number nine. Let him loose on the Rotherham defence, keep them busy, stop them scoring at our end.”

One of the more impressive signings of the winter window, Griffiths has switched Lyon for Doncaster for the foreseeable future. Scored on his debut on Saturday against Sunderland and could be a handful for the Town defence to deal with.


“We need to stop kidding ourselves that Dodoo is a target man and playing these high balls into him. The bloke may be tall but he has barely won a header all season”, “Dodoo had barely three touches all game and is a waste of space”, “Half-time, get Dodoo and Horton off to start if we had more subs to use I’d say get more off total shocking display.”

Donny’s top goalscorer this season, Dodoo has seven goals to his name as he looks to guide the South Yorkshire side out of the relegation zone. Has two goals in his last four games.

player stats

“We were also robbed by bad officiating Dodoo was clearly onside when through but got flagged even though it was the new lad in the offside position”, “Dodoo or the new lad should have made way”, “Maybe the new West Ham kid for Agard but play him up top and Dodoo in the wide slot.”

However, he started on the bench on Saturday against Sunderland, replaced by the new man Griffiths. Will be a battle between the two for who starts on Tuesday.

Doncaster Rovers Fans on ITFC

“Reproduce the Plymouth game but iron out defensive mistakes and now we have Reo we can beat Ipswich”, “It will again be a real battle that needs the whole squad working for each other. As with the Sunderland game, I do think we can win this one. As much as the Sunderland game took a lot out of our players ,I wouldn’t want to make changes, I would start with the same 11 that started that game”, “If we take anything from Ipswich then I'll take that as bonus points, which come the end of this month will tell us how close we can take it”, “It can’t be allowed that we perform like we did against Rotherham against Ipswich. They’ve beaten us heavily already”, “I don't think Ipswich are brilliant by any stretch. We made that 0-6 defeat easy for them.”

Last Time Out – Ipswich Town 6-0 Doncaster Rovers

“Men against boys first half”, “On the first-half performance we look every inch a relegation side. Ipswich are only a handful of places above us and we have yet to create a meaningful attack”, “We will struggle to win 10 games this season with this squad and Wellens as the manager. Just because Ipswich are a bigger club does not mean we cannot look organised, be able to pass it to each other. The midfield is poor and lightweight and Wellens’s tactics are non-existent, he is out of his depth like I said in a previous post.”

“Fair play to Ipswich though. Yes, we've been absolutely dire but they've knocked it about beautifully at times and been a joy to watch. Most of their goals too were really well taken too and Dahlberg not much chance with them at all”, “We completed folded in an 11-minute spell conceding four goals. Not acceptable it was shocking”, “I tipped Ipswich to win the league this season and watch them fly up the table now. Yes, we completely folded in an 11-minute second-half spell and that was not acceptable, but believe me we will not play many if any better sides than Ipswich this season.”

Back in September, in Sam Morsy’s first league game as an Ipswich Town player, the Blues dominated Rovers side at Portman Road. Unlikely goalscorer Lee Evans ended the game with a hat-trick.


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

Photo: Matchday Images

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

ArnieM added 15:47 - Feb 7
Cue the resurgent Doncaster Tuesday night now then…. This always happens to us doesn’t it!

OwainG1992 added 15:54 - Feb 7
If we beat Donny tomorrow I have to say I'll be very pleased.
For me they are going to start picking up more points with the signings.
Early goal could be key.
Get the crowd nerve.
If they take the lead and sit back it could be a long night.

JewellintheTown added 15:57 - Feb 7
Nah, we've got this! Mines a double, please.

SouperJim added 11:16 - Feb 8
Clearly they're a more capable side now than their league position suggests, but they've lost their last 5 at home. First goal is massive.

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