Friday, 2 April 2021

Doncaster Rovers 0 v Charlton Athletic 1

Nigel Adkins first real game in charge and his first victory. He made six changes to the "Lee Bowyer-looking" side that he put out a day after taking over, and it worked.

He was, perhaps, fortunate to be able to recall Ryan Inniss at the heart of the defence after five months out. Inniss was foot-sure and we looked very calm at the back. Jason Pearce looked more confident alongside Inniss and Adkins went with Purrington and Matthews in the full-back berths. 

Darren Pratley played in front of Inniss and I thought he was very effective today in breaking play and moving the ball out. Alongside him were Jake Forster-Caskey and Alex Gilbey with a front three of Jaiyesimi, Stockley and Maatsen. Maatsen was the early bright spot in getting at the Rovers defence and opening the scoring after Stockley and Jaiyesimi both won headers to set him up with a close range chance which he buried. 

Doncaster huffed and puffed throughout the first-half without really troubling Ben Amos. He did have to make an early save from Omar Bogle but that was really it. We were a constant threat on the break and should really have wrapped things up early in the second-half when we appeared to be trying to kill it off. Jayden Stockley did manage to head home but the goal was rightly chalked off for offside on the replay as Doncaster stepped up and Stockley's header deflected off Jaiyesimi en route.

Liam Miller, back from two games for Canada, came on for Jaiyesimi as the game wore on and he managed to up the ante by stretching the Rovers defence whilst also managing to fail to make several straightforward passes to his team-mates having done the hard part. That will come in time but it's frustrating to watch three or four times in succession. Chuks Aneke looked particularly frustrated not to receive his pass when in a threatening position, having come on for Stockley.

At the death we saw Shinnie and Gunter for Gilbey and Maatsen, although clearly more time-consuming than strictly tactical. Gilbey did a bit more than in his last few poor performances but I am still left wondering what he brings compared to the likes of Shinnie or Morgan. Maybe he will get a run under Adkins and prove me wrong - I'd love to see it.

Adkins will be feeling good this evening. He has an unbeaten start and the possible makings of a 'managerial bounce.' The lunchtime win lifted us briefly into fifth but results later in the day saw us finish in seventh. Adkins will have to face the top four sides in the remaining eight matches and outpoint Blackpool, Doncaster and Ipswich who have one or two games in hand. I think it's asking too much to have any serious play-off expectations but perhaps our players will be able to play with more freedom than those around us for a number of those matches because expectations will justifiably be higher elsewhere.

Hard not to feel good about Adkins' start. He clearly is his own man, has his own standards and a very positive attitude to life. He may, at least, make the end to the season more interesting than I believe it would have been under Lee Bowyer, who I thought had shot his bolt. What was very clear today is that there was far less pissing about at the back when in possession and more distribution under no pressure upfield. Amos kicked more but Inniss and Pratley had more time and were able to look up aim for the front men. Long may it continue.