Leyton Orient 1 Doncaster Rovers 4: Ruthless Rovers have one foot back in League One
For ll the much-lauded attributes of this seemingly unstoppable Doncaster Rovers side, their ability to solve problems remains slightly underrated.
In a three game week where they picked up nine points to put at least one foot in League One, they were forced to earn each victory.
There was no rolling over from any team with each looking to restrict, stifle and pounce on the break.
It proved the case again as Rovers headed to downtrodden Leyton Orient, who showed no signs of capitulation when they fell behind to a fine finish from the edge of the box from Tommy Rowe on 36 minutes.
That this was their first real sight of goal tells the story of a troublesome first half where they were harried and hampered, preventing them from settling in to their preferred style of passing football.
Orient ensured a frustrating first half from a Rovers perspective ended even more so when they equalised.
A rapid counterattack saw Gavin Massey win a pinball showdown with Matty Blair and play inside for the surprising figure of centre half Tom Parkes, who had rampaged the length of the pitch to finish confidently.
But half time brought the chance to problem-solve and a slight tinkering of the tactics saw that succeed in a fine second period.
Rovers pressed high and with intelligence as their hosts had done and the young Orient defence struggled to cope. Their own defence also played a higher line, easing the pressure from the Orient press.
Soon they were in command when John Marquis pounced on a wayward pass and rifled in low.
Alfie May and substitute duo Andy Williams and Gary McSheffrey all missed gilt-edged chances before Marquis netted the third, his second and his 23rd of the season as he struck McSheffrey’s squared ball first time eight minutes from time.
The best was saved for last however as Mathieu Baudry produced a stunning volley straight from a corner to give Orient keeper Alex Cisak no chance.
HAVE THEY FIGURED IT OUT?
They may be adept at solving problems posed by their rivals but the problems continue to arise.
So it begs the question, have opposition teams cottoned on to an approach which restricts Rovers?
The pattern of the last few games has seen the opposition press Rovers, press hard and press high up the pitch.
It is a tactic which unsettles, pushing Rovers deeper and preventing the back four from getting the ball into the midfield, from where the success of the team is driven.
It also forces Rovers to play long balls, and they are far less effective when doing so.
Of course, as results suggest, the effectiveness of such an approach is questionable when it comes to stopping Rovers.
As they have shown throughout the season, they possess a level of quality beyond the vast majority of their divisional rivals. And in many games they have only had to turn that quality on for 15 or 20 minutes to get the job done.
But there is a slight concern they could continue to be troubled by close attention from the opposition, particularly next season when they should be coming across better quality teams in League One.
RUTHLESSNESS AT ITS BEST
Something really special has been produced in front of goal by Rovers this season, seeing them sit as the country’s top scorers.
Some exceptional teams, dominating in their respective divisions higher up the food chain than Rovers, have failed to match their phenomenal strike rate so far this term.
It was on full show at Brisbane Road on Saturday, though it could have been even better. They scored four and arguably should have had at least three more but for some wayward finishing.
But the quality of execution for all four goals was superb.
Rowe showed tremendous accuracy when working space for the opener before Marquis took centre stage, finishing twice with real confidence. Everything he touches turns to goals once again.
And then there is Baudry, a man who does things no average centre half can do.
His volley, straight from a corner, was a thing of beauty, as was his decision not to celebrate against his former club, particularly given their current plight.
A HARSH REMINDER
It was hard not to feel for Orient and their supporters as they were swept aside in the second half.
There looks to be little chance they will be saved from relegation, despite what happens at boardroom level over the next few weeks.
Plenty of minds will have wandered to Monday’s trip to the High Court, where the very future of the club will be decided.
But there should be pride in the battling performance of their players, who made life incredibly difficult for Rovers at times. It was the perfect reflection of the battling supporters, attempting to keep their club alive.
It brought back memories of a similar plight for Rovers in the not too distant past. Two decades ago they were headed down the same path, looking doomed.
They have come a tremendously long way since then and should be thankful for that.
SHOWDOWN for the title
It seems fitting that much of the domestic footballing calendar has been cleared next weekend for the international break.
Coincidentally, the weekend hosts one of the most tantilising fixtures left to play this season in English football as Rovers welcome second placed Plymouth Argyle.
Win and they will be nine points clear with seven games to play. And surely then, the championship trophy will be heading to the Keepmoat.