Match Analysis: Doncaster Rovers 0 Peterborough United 2 - Dickov’s men fail to deliver on celebration day for a hero

Rovers Richie Wellens gets in a tangle with Michael Smith
Rovers Richie Wellens gets in a tangle with Michael Smith

Earmarking a match as one for celebration always seems like tempting fate in football.

And the label of James Coppinger Day proved just that for Rovers, who slumped to a damaging defeat on Saturday.

Rovers on loan striker Jonson Clarke Harris gets away on the line

Rovers on loan striker Jonson Clarke Harris gets away on the line

It was a day of celebration that seemingly had a hex upon it almost from the day it was announced.

Plotted forward as Coppinger’s 450th appearance for the club, the veteran was struck down with an ankle injury within a matter of days of the special event being unveiled, meaning his major milestone would no longer fall on March 14.

And just when it seemed as though he would be fit enough to play against Peterborough, there was a recurrence of the injury against Gillingham last weekend, ruling him out of action on a day dedicated to him.

It was as if the heavens were suggesting it would not be Rovers’ day. And they were right.

Enda Stevens battles with Jon Taylor

Enda Stevens battles with Jon Taylor

The most disappointing aspect of Saturday’s 2-0 defeat - brought by goals in each half from Luke James and Conor Washington - was that the Keepmoat’s biggest crowd of the season did not get to see the real Rovers.

As the push for the top six gathered increasing pace from Christmas onwards, the wider Rovers public failed to be enticed back to the Keepmoat, with attendances largely remaining disappointingly low.

The combination of cut priced tickets and the chance to honour a still active club legend brought more than 11,000 to the stadium on Saturday.

And unfortunately for those who have not seen Rovers on a regular basis this season, they will have been left with a falsely negative view of Paul Dickov’s side.

Andy Butler blocks from Michael Smith

Andy Butler blocks from Michael Smith

Rovers were distinctly lacklustre against Peterborough, a side who arrived in town on Saturday on the back of three straight wins which had lifted them into serious play-off contention.

Rather than responding to the bumper crowd or the flying opposition, Rovers wilted and damaged their top six hopes.

Gone was the attractive, intricate and most importantly effective football, replaced by rushed, panicky and sloppy play.

It feels like going over old ground but the issue of Paul Keegan’s absence haunts over Rovers with each blow to their play-off aspirations.

Rovers Jonson Clarke Harris goes airborne against Michael Smith

Rovers Jonson Clarke Harris goes airborne against Michael Smith

Dean Furman sat deep in the Keegan role and performed well, arguably one of the better players in the side on Saturday.

But it is not merely a case of finding someone who can act as the holding midfielder in Keegan’s absence.

With Keegan in the side there was always the sense of reliability. He was there, sitting in front of the back four and whatever five played ahead of him would take care of themselves.

Without him, Rovers look disjointed and nervous. It is as if his absence plays on the minds of those whose job it is to create and attack.

The approach on Saturday seemed wrong from the start and only highlighted how much Rovers miss Keegan’s presence.

Curtis Main started at the tip of a midfield diamond with Nathan Tyson and new signing Jonson Clarke-Harris acting as the two central strikers.

NSST 14-3-15 Doncaster Rovers v Peterborough Skybet League One''Rovers Dean Furman battles with Michael Smith

NSST 14-3-15 Doncaster Rovers v Peterborough Skybet League One''Rovers Dean Furman battles with Michael Smith

Main was ineffectual throughout the first half, involved in very little of the build-up play and rather isolated in a role which did not suit him at all.

Debutant Clarke-Harris started brightly enough but ultimately had little say on the game.

The diamond midfield also left Rovers exposed down the flanks due to their own lack of width. Enda Stevens was given a torrid time by Jon Taylor with far too much pressure placed on the left back.

And again, conceding another early goal proved Rovers’ undoing as battling back proved too difficult an ask against a side brimming with confidence.

They may be arriving late but Peterborough look up for the play-off fight and well equipped for the battle ahead. Strong, well-organised and dangerous on the break, Posh are an outfit that should be taken seriously with less than two months of the regular season to go.

It should certainly be acknowledged that Rovers had some very good chances to score and that Peterborough were indebted to a superb performance from goalkeeper Ben Alnwick - a former Rovers loanee - for their win.

But the overall lack of cohesion and composure among Dickov’s men was a major disappointment. A fair few people will have left the Keepmoat on Saturday doubting Rovers’ appetite for the fight ahead.

It was a rather low key start to the game but Posh kicked it into life with the opening goal after 16 minutes.

Peterborough won possession in midfield with the ball played out to Taylor who had far too much time to send over a tantalising cross which the unmarked James met with a peach of a diving header to score past Stephen Bywater.

Rovers responded well with arguably their best period of the game. A superb break saw Main feed Tyson with a brilliant through ball only for the on-rushing Alnwick to block.

Clarke-Harris appeared to be pushed over by Gabriel Zakuani inside the area but referee Nigel Miller was unmoved.

Alnwick denied both Harry Forrester and Main just seconds apart with fine stops.

Peterborough settled well into a solid defensive pattern. Each time Rovers won possession, Posh’s central midfield duo of Jack Payne and Michael Bostwick quickly dropped deep to present the hosts with a brick wall.

Rovers managed to find the odd gap and it took a brilliant save from Alwick, diving the wrong way, to deny Tyson’s pot shot.

Bywater at the other end had to match his opposite number’s best efforts to keep out Washington’s 25 yard drive that seemed destined for the bottom corner. And he produced a similar stop to keep out Joe Newell just before the break.

Rovers changed things around in the second half with Main joining Clarke-Harris up front and Tyson moving out wide.

But they were largely ineffectual throughout the 45 minutes as they struggled to break down an increasingly resolute Peterborough outfit.

Substitute Kyle Bennett looked lively and powered over a rising shot in arguably Rovers’ most threatening move of a lacklustre half.

That was until the few seconds before Peterborough sealed the three points.

Main was teed up superbly from a corner and fired on goal with Alnwick sticking out a leg to keep the ball out. Peterborough cleared and broke all too easily.

Substitute Kyle Vassell unselfishly fed Washington who strode into the area and lashed under Bywater to wrap up the win.

It should have been a day to remember for all concerned with Rovers but was certainly one they will hope will quickly be forgotten.

Rovers: Bywater 7, Wabara 6, McCullough 7, Butler 7, Stevens 5, Wellens 6, Furman 7 (Razak 82), Forrester 6 (Bennett 66 6), Clarke-Harris 6, Main 6, Tyson 6 (Robinson 74 5).

Subs not used: Marosi, McCombe, Evina, Middleton.

Peterborough: Alnwick 8, Smith 8, Santos 7, Zakuani 7, Ntlhe 7 (Brisley 90), Taylor 7, Payne 7, Bostwick 8, Newell 7 (Anderson 76 5), Washington 7, James 7 (Vassell 86).

Subs not used: Henry, Oztumer, Norris, Beautyman.

Att: 11,520

REACTION

HERO

On a day when Rovers let themselves down with their on-field exploits, the hero of the hour can only be the absent James Coppinger. He showed tremendous class on a day dedicated to him, speaking with emotion on the pitch prior to kick off and recalling his great moments. How Rovers could have done with him out on the field to play.

KEY MOMENT

Referee Nigel Miller denied Rovers what seemed like a stonewall penalty less than ten minutes after Peterborough had taken the lead. It certainly looked as though Jonson Clarke-Harris was pushed to the ground. Had it been given, Rovers would have had the perfect chance to level up and change the complexion of the game.

VIEWPOINT

Coupled with last weekend’s performance in the strong winds of Gillingham, Saturday’s defeat made for back-to-back lacklustre performances from Rovers at a time when consistently good showings are needed. Visitors Peterborough only look to be gathering momentum for the play-off push while Rovers look to be losing it with each passing game.

MANAGERS’ VIEW

PAUL DICKOV

“We didn’t deserve anything out of the game, the better team won sometimes you have to hold your hands up.

“We knew it was going to be tough and it was.

“Both their goals have come from mistakes, which isn’t on. We shouldn’t have let them break from a corner, at 1-0 we always had a chance but letting them break and get a second killed the game.”

DAVE ROBERTSON

“Doncaster is a hard place to come and get a result, but we played with a lot of desire and confidence and we were worth the three points.

“It’s four wins out of four and the games don’t get any easier but the aim is to keep the run going and see how far it takes us.

“We had over 2,000 supporters here and although the players were brilliant, the fans, if anything, were even better with the way they got behind us from start to finish.”

Abdul Razak gets past Joe Newell and Harry Anderson

Abdul Razak gets past Joe Newell and Harry Anderson

NSST 14-3-15 Doncaster Rovers v Peterborough Skybet League One''Rovers Curtis Main is man handled by Ricardo Santos

NSST 14-3-15 Doncaster Rovers v Peterborough Skybet League One''Rovers Curtis Main is man handled by Ricardo Santos