Match analysis: Doncaster Rovers 3 Wigan Athletic 0

Rovers celebrate the second goal against Wigan
Rovers celebrate the second goal against Wigan

If only Doncaster could bottle this type of performance.

There would have been no winter of discontent, one that saw Rovers host weary Wigan on the back of nine games without a win.

And there would be every reason to confidently predict Paul Dickov’s side will move clear of the drop zone, with a series of survival six-pointers to come over the next six weeks.

If Rovers played with this energy, endeavour and swagger every week they’d be pretty much safe already.

But that’s Doncaster Rovers for you - predictably unpredictable, consistently inconsistent.

When you least expected it, against a Wigan side previously unbeaten under new boss Uwe Rosler and boasting an enviable embarrassment of riches in attack, Rovers produced a performance full of everything that was missing in their last home game against Stevenage: desire, craft and composure.

All three elements were personified in the performance of crowd favourite James Coppinger, who rolled back the years to torment his full back all afternoon and cap an all-action display by playing a key role in a crucial second goal, sandwiched between Chris Brown’s close range finish and second half penalty.

Coppinger was spritely in possession and spirited in his defensive work. He wasn’t the only wearing red and white to look refreshed and recharged.

And it was notable that Doncaster’s most celebrated senior player should really come to the party on a day when Rovers had the ‘ex-factor’ - the experience factor.

In fact, despite the obvious striker shortage, on paper this was the strongest eleven that Dickov had been able to name for some time.

James Husband, older and wiser than his real age would suggest, brought the left side to life.

New additions Abdoulaye Meite and Gabriel Tamas, both wily campaigners who have been around the block, brought composure to a back four who had kept just one clean sheet in 12 prior to the pair’s joint home debut.

Coincidentally Paul Keegan’s last appearance came in the 0-0 draw at Barnsley, 13 games ago.

And the Irishman’s long awaited return from injury was central to this shut-out too, his no-nonsense style blocking Wigan’s route to goal and also bringing the best out of playmaker Richie Wellens.

While battering ram Brown was back to his bruising best up top, holding onto possession and linking play, in turn allowing Coppinger and Harry Forrester to play starring roles in Rovers’ thoroughly deserved victory.

The emphatic nature of Doncaster’s first win since their stunning comeback against Queens Park Rangers in November had not seemed on the cards during the early exchanges.

Rovers were lively from the outset, but so too were a Wigan team that carried a genuine threat in the form of Jordi Gomez, Nick Powell and new loan signing Nicky Maynard.

There was an early fright for the home team when their almost customary slack marking from a set piece nearly cost them dearly after just five minutes, but an unchallenged Leon Barnett headed Ben Watson’s corner hopelessly over the bar.

And within the blink of an eye Rovers grabbed the all important first goal.

When they go behind, Rovers rarely come back in games. But when they score first they have a habit of going onto win all three points.

So when Brown expertly got on the end of Keegan’s looping cross, following some lovely build-up down the right involving Wellens and Coppinger, the home side at least had some sort of foothold.

The goal lead was a slender one, and should have been cancelled out when Powell got on the end of Gomez’s ball over the top but sent his lob not just over Ross Turnbull but over the bar.

But Wigan’s threat began to peter out as Rovers continued to not just harry without the ball, but pose genuine problems with it. Coppinger saw a volley saved by Ali Al Habsi, and then Brown saw his back post header blocked.

A crucial second arrived on 52 minutes when Coppinger and Wellens combined to somewhat bundle the ball home after Wellens’ initial effort had been saved.

And when Wigan decided to throw the kitchen sink at Doncaster, Brown sealed the points from the spot after the marauding Husband was brought down by Tylas Browning.

Dickov’s reaction, one of relief, joy and also frustration at his side’s inability to produce more performances of this ilk, rather summed up the ups and downs of an inconsistent season.

His post-match briefing to his players, however, was a simple one. More of the same lads, and the only way is up.