Analysis: Bolton 3 Doncaster Rovers 0

Bolton vs Doncaster - Theo Robinson shields from Darren Pratley.
Bolton vs Doncaster - Theo Robinson shields from Darren Pratley.
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Rotation, rotation, rotation. The chance would be a fine thing for Paul Dickov.

After watching his weary-looking side wilt on their first ever visit to the Reebok Stadium, you could sense Dickov’s envy.

His fellow Scot Dougie Freedman had freshened things up to devastating effect.

On-loan Cardiff striker Joe Mason, experienced duo Darren Pratley and Chris Eagles, and South Korean international Lee Chung-Yong were among five fresh pairs of legs in the Bolton side following their midweek defeat to Huddersfield.

It was a sign of what Doncaster are up against this season; bigger squads, much bigger budgets.

But it’s also a selection policy that may tempt Dickov into similarly ruthless rotation over the forthcoming festive period.

By the time Rovers face Ipswich, Millwall and renew acquaintances with QPR over the hectic Christmas programme, he should have more players to call upon.

Yun Suk-Young is due to return to Cantley Park on Thursday, while Paul Keegan, Harry Forrester and James Husband aren’t a million miles away.

On the evidence of Saturday’s lackadaisical display they will be welcomed back with open arms.

Dickov has thus far been keen to keep a settled side. If players do the business for him, they keep the shirt. If players make an impact from the bench, just like David Cotterill, they usually earn a start.

But that wholly reasonable approach to team selection can’t seem to shake off Doncaster’s annoying tendency to be consistently inconsistent. More regular rotation might be worth considering.

A lethargic performance always seems to waiting around the corner, usually reserved for an away day.

Because as good as Rovers were at home to QPR the Saturday previously, they were as bad at Bolton. Leggy and laboured, they started and ended the game on the back foot.

Bar a brief 15-minute respite, immediately upon Chris Brown’s introduction as a half time substitute, Rovers were second best.

There was a very early sign of what was to follow when Mason, who proved a menace throughout, was presented with a sight of goal in the second minute only for the lineman’s flag to bail Doncaster out.

The movement of Mason, Lee and the outstanding Andre Moritz was a constant threat.

Nevertheless, Rovers came within inches of breaking the deadlock against the run of play when Theo Robinson and Alex Baptiste went up to meet Mark Duffy’s floated corner and the ball cannoned back off the post.

It was as close as Doncaster would come - and the near miss did little to discourage the waves of Bolton attacks, nor bring the sleepy visiting side to life.

Pratley fizzed a volley just wide and struck a speculative 40-yard effort just over, while Moritz saw an ambitious attempt deflected wide

It was no surprise when the hosts eventually did find the net but the sloppy nature of it upset Dickov.

Enda Stevens, under no pressure, gifted possession to Bolton on half way, the ball was fed into Mason and the striker’s shot rather fortuitously deflected off Liam McCullough past the hapless Ross Turnbull.

There was nothing lucky, however, about the way Wanderers went onto dispatch Doncaster.

The Trotters defied their lowly league standing with some lovely attacking interplay.

As Dickov pointed out afterwards, they very much did to Rovers what Rovers did to QPR - they grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and did not let go.

Moritz quickly rattled in a second from distance, a fine strike from the edge of the box, and from that point it was hard to see a way back for the visitors.

Robinson’s shot shortly after the break was all Rovers had to show for their second half huff and puff.

At the other end Bolton peppered Turnbull, but it took until stoppage time for Neil Danns to latch onto a loose ball and rifle past Doncaster’s inspired keeper.

Up to 15th, then down to 20th in a shot, Rovers are rollercoastering their way through the Championship. Up one week, down the next.

Would sharing out the workload, as much as resources allow, avoid these sporadically lacklustre displays and provide some Christmas consistency? It’s one for Dickov to ponder.