Doncaster Rovers: Dickov’s defensive storms looks to be easing

Abdoulaye Meite (pictured right) has struck up a fine centre-back partnership with Paul Quinn in a solid defensive backline for Rovers. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Abdoulaye Meite (pictured right) has struck up a fine centre-back partnership with Paul Quinn in a solid defensive backline for Rovers. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe

With no fewer than four long-term injuries sustained by Rovers centre-halves this season, you would almost be forgiven for thinking that that particular position is somehow ‘cursed’.

Lengthy injuries to defenders Jamie McCombe, Bongani Khumalo, Gabriel Tamas and captain Rob Jones have caused Rovers into reshuffling at the back more times than manager Paul Dickov would have liked in his debut season at the helm.

Dipping into his youth ranks, Dickov has called upon teenager Liam Wakefield and only just turned 20-year-old Luke McCullough to help fill the void - throwing them in at the deep end against Championship high-flying sides such as Derby, QPR and Ipswich.

And then there has been the added tactical reshuffle of midfielder James Coppinger who in turn has put in several man of the match performances at in an unfamiliar right-back role more recently.

However, there does appear to now be some light at the end of a troublesome tunnel as it seems Dickov has the solid defensive backline he’s been craving - and it could not have come at a better time.

As the season enters the cliched ‘business end’, Doncaster’s chief finally looks to have a settled back four with the added bonus of Paul Quinn, more accustomed to a right-back role, striking up a fine centre-back partnership alongside Abdoulaye Meite.

The pair were part of a new-look defence which included loan arrival Lucas Neill and the club’s much sought-after left-back James Husband, as the four more than frustrated a Leeds United second half onslaught in Doncaster’s 2-1 win at Elland Road on Saturday.

As delighted as Dickov has been with his newly-settled backline - which also includes Manchester United’s on-loan goalkeeper Sam Johnstone - the Scotsman has been quick to praise all of the team’s efforts in helping one another out during a difficult, injury-ravaged period.

“Paul Quinn has been absolutely outstanding,” said Dickov.

“He was head and shoulder above against Leeds.

“If you look back at it, we’ve lost Rob Jones, Jamie McCombe, Bongani Khumalo and Gabby Tamas. They are all top, top players at this level.

“That is four centre-halves that we’ve lost to long-term injuries, so for the players to come in and deal with that as a back four as well as our two midfielders defending well and our wide players up and down supporting the full-backs, that effort breeds confidence throughout the team.

“Both centre-backs [Quinn and Meite] have been fantastic for us.”