Doncaster Rovers 1 Swindon 0: Town’s automatic promotion hopes fade
Swindon couldn’t make it into the top two as they went down to a 1-0 defeat against top of the table Doncaster. Adam Johnson watched the game from his recliner…
Thank you Sky for showing our game on TV, but sorry to anyone who watched it and wasn’t a fan of Swindon or Doncaster. In a game billed as ‘must win’ Swindon were outplayed and out done tactically as they managed zero shots on target and couldn’t hold on for a point. Jamie McCombe scored the winner from a corner in the 81st minute as Doncaster got the three points they deserved.
Kevin MacDonald made three changes to the side that played versus Oldham with Nathan Thompson and Andy Williams missing out through injury and Roberts dropping to the bench. Those three were replaced by Tottenham loanee Nathan Byrne, James Collins and Adam Rooney.
Swindon lined up in the now traditional formation of ‘So, does anyone know what it is?’ Sky Sports went for a 4-3-3 with Rooney and Parrett on either side of James Collins upfront but as the game went on you’d learn not to trust what Sky Sports had to say about Swindon. Twitter went for a 4-1-4-1 with Navarro playing in the hole but otherwise as you’d expect.
Personally, I saw it as a 4-2-3-1 (basically 4-5-1 still, kind of) due to Town’s narrow approach to the game. It’s certain that Parrett was playing behind Collins, not on a wing, and Rooney was out on a wing rather than upfront. Navarro and Luongo looked to be playing the deepest in midfield with Ferry supporting Byrne on the right flank. Your guess is as good as mine though. If it’s not 4-4-2, we all get confused.
The formation discussion would be the most entertaining aspect of a dire first half as neither team were able to build any sustained pressure or produce any decent football of note.
Doncaster had the better of the play but that wasn’t much of a compliment as a pitch away from the County Ground once again looked like ruining a game of football. It was Swindon who had the game’s first chance as Dean Parrett’s long range effort went flying over the bar.
Doncaster and Swindon would continue to struggle to break the other down but Aden Flint nearly gave Doncaster a goal out of nothing as he brought down James Coppinger in the box. The centre defender’s rash nature raised to the surface once again as he miss-timed his challenge and brought down Coppinger but the referee gave no penalty.
More time passed by as expectation levels of a good game dropped by the minute but Alan McCormack’s ball chasing dog like nature came out as he hassled the Doncaster backline into a mistake but was only able to put his long range shot over. A bit of energy on show made for a nice change.
The main chance of the half, but not even a shot on target, came in the 38th minute as McCormack would try to walk his way out of the defence. He was caught in possession by David Cotterill whose crossed got a deflection but Darren Ward was there to clear off the line.
The half time whistle couldn’t come soon enough for both sides and supporters but Swindon would have one more long range effort as Nathan Byrne worked hard to keep possession down the right and found Parrett who couldn’t test the Doncaster keeper. Half time, thank you referee.
The second half wouldn’t get any better for Swindon as the league leaders came out taking the initiative seeing three points were for the taking.
Everything in the half would be Doncaster so for the next few paragraphs, I apologise. The first effort to test Foderingham came from Kyle Bennett who managed to be let free on the wing but his shot was straight at the Swindon number one.
Doncaster would trouble Town from corners on a number of occasions with the likes of Rob Jones, Jamie McCombe and Chris Brown proving to be a nuisance and Jones in the 52nd minute had a chance from 4 yards but was distracted enough by Darren Ward to head wide. With Swindon being forced back and having to defend, no change was coming from Kevin MacDonald as James Collins, Adam Rooney, Simon Ferry and Dean Parrett became forgotten men.
Foderingham would be called into action as his reaction save kept out Chris Brown’s header and the striker would again be angered as he jumped with Aden Flint in the area but was brought down as both players missed the header but the referee again gave no penalty.
Dean Furman would be the man given the next chance as he was allowed space to wander into the area, beat the oncoming Byrne, but Aden Flint recovered to clear the danger. However, this was the last time Swindon would be able to clear their lines. Another corner for Doncaster would finally break the barrier as Jamie McCombe got his head on the ball in a busy six yard box which found its way through 3 or 4 Town players to give Doncaster all three points.
Kevin MacDonald did react with two subs, Navarro and Parrett off for De Vita and Roberts, as Swindon tried for an equaliser that wasn’t going to come. It was too late for the boss as Swindon made it only two wins in their last seven collecting nine points on the way.
Most of the criticism about the game was directed at MacDonald’s tactics. His desire to play with one upfront has left many bewildered but I’ve not been against the use of this tactic. What I was most against was the lack of change in reacting to the game or situation.
For the majority of the first half, the tactics were working okay. It was negative but away from home many managers would be. It was doing a job in maintaining Doncaster and limiting their threats even though we weren’t creating ourselves. However, in the second half we were under pressure and not even keeping possession, something had to change.
MacDonald refused to change his system and Collins, Rooney, Parrett and Ferry were all lost as they struggled to keep hold of the ball for any sustainable period. The former Villa man persists in playing Ferry and Rooney out wide when they clearly are not wide players, maybe showing his opinions of Luke Rooney, Gary Roberts and Raffaele De Vita.
I think the system can work in League One but the players we have aren’t best suited to a 4-3-3/4-5-1/4-1-4-1/4-2-3-1 and so forth. The players are used to playing 4-4-2 and were playing slick passing attractive football which didn’t need changing but MacDonald wants to put his mark on the team it seems.
I don’t want this to be ‘have a go at MacDonald day’ but v Doncaster he got it wrong. It’s a bad day at the office but let’s not allow it to ruin the rest of the season. There are five games left to dictate a season that has been very dramatic, let’s not fall at the last hurdles.
On a positive note, Massimo Luongo continued to impress in a Swindon shirt with tough tackling, work rate and a fair few blocks. Nathan Byrne looks solid at right back, I wonder if him or Thompson fancy a stint at left back, and Flint and Ward both had solid performances albeit with the penalty appeals against Aden Flint.
Swindon are now 5th, five points off 2nd place, and have played more games than Brentford and Sheffield United in 3rd and 4th. The dream of automatic promotion is disappearing and with trips to MK Dons and Sheffield United in the next two games, it’s unlikely that’ll change. But a place in the playoffs is definitely ours for the taking. Support the team; it’s all we can do as fans.