Doncaster Rovers: A year is a very long time at the Rovers

Agony: Rob Jones shows his despair at Tuesday night's defeat to Carlisle.                            Picture: Andrew Roe

Agony: Rob Jones shows his despair at Tuesday night's defeat to Carlisle. Picture: Andrew Roe

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Tuesday night’s defeat to Carlisle did not just serve as a setback - but a flashback too.

And like so many times this season, as the promotion plot thickened as a result of Rovers’ missed opportunity, Rob Jones was again a central character.

In the build-up to Liam Noble’s wickedly deflected free kick, hard man Jones hit the deck like never before.

His awkward mistimed tackle on the edge of his own box not only resulted in a very costly dead ball, but it also left a mark on the Corporal’s private parts.

His pain was obvious as he tried to ‘run it off’ before half time. The look on his face said it all.

And the fact it was a bitterly cold night did not help either.

A year ago this weekend Rovers suffered a very similar kick in the nether regions, only this time the perpetrator was Dave Kitson and that goal that should never have stood. Ouch, remember how it felt?

When the final whistle blew on Tuesday, more memories of that painful day came flooding back.

Jones was inconsolable, on his haunches, before a long, thoughtful gaze to the sky.

Around him, red and white hooped shirts fell to the floor, distraught at defeat after giving it their all.

It was like a flashback to that fateful April afternoon against Portsmouth.

In seemingly no time, a year has passed. An eventful year. So much water has passed under the bridge as far as Rovers are concerned.

Indeed a year is a very long time in football.

It’s even longer at Doncaster Rovers.

And almost exactly a year to the day after they were relegated, Rovers can take their biggest step yet towards an instant return to the Championship by beating Crewe Alexandra tomorrow.

How about that for symmetry?

This week’s visit of Carlisle - a side with nothing to play for other than pride - was meant to be the night that Doncaster did exactly that.

But, from very early on in proceedings, there were signs that it was not going to be the home side’s night.

Rovers looked a little rushed in possession, almost too eager to get that goal or play that killer pass.

There was no shortage of commitment or energy, just like there was against Swindon and Tranmere.

But that high-velocity approach seemed to scramble the players’ ability to keep a cool head on the ball, to carve open a spirited Carlisle side or create something out of nothing.

It was all a bit panicky and nervy, while conceding the first goal changed the whole complexion of the night.

In the end, the Cumbrians were decent value for their win.

Rovers simply must put it behind them and move on, quickly. Time is running out.

But they also must correct their mistakes at Gresty Road this weekend against a similarly young and adventurous side.

The worry is that, like Carlisle, Crewe are not involved in either the scrap at the top or bottom of League One.

They are free to enjoy themselves, on the back of their weekend win at Wembley in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final.

And Doncaster will hope, after promotion rivals Brentford came away from Crewe with maximum points on Wednesday night, that the Alex will be in equally generous mood tomorrow.

After three energy sapping games in quick succession, it might be a good time for a couple of fresh faces to be introduced.

James Husband would bring a tenacity and teenage exuberance if he gets the nod to fill in at right back, should Andy Griffin fail a fitness test.

While further up field, now might be the time to recall either Billy Paynter or Iain Hume to give Chris Brown, who tried manfully to break down Carlisle only to be denied twice by the woodwork, a helping hand.

Another difficult afternoon lies in store for Rover tomorrow. Crewe showed at the Keepmoat Stadium earlier this season just what they are capable of, running out impressive 2-0 winners.

But if does go wrong like Tuesday night, just remember the pain of one year ago.

Rovers have come a very long way in that time.