Analysis: Bristol City 3 Doncaster Rovers 0

Theo Robinson goes between Aden Flint and Derek Williams. Picture: Steve Uttley
Theo Robinson goes between Aden Flint and Derek Williams. Picture: Steve Uttley
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Paul Dickov did say there would be ups and downs this season.

And when Doncaster have been good - particularly at Yeovil and Watford - they have been very good.

Joe Bryan brings down Harry Forrester but the Rovers players is booked for diving

Joe Bryan brings down Harry Forrester but the Rovers players is booked for diving

But when they have been bad - in the defeats to Port Vale, Oldham and on Saturday at new League One leaders Bristol City - they have been quite worryingly bad.

There’s very little middle ground, it seems. Dickov’s puzzle is how to find a modicum of consistency?

Should he rotate his small squad on a regular basis? Should he revert to two up top? Or stick with the 4-2-3-1?

Where does Dean Furman, a player hailed for his recent performances in a South Africa shirt but struggling for form in a red and white hooped one, fit in exactly?

How does he get the best out of red card villain Harry Forrester? More to the point, how does he keep him on the pitch for 90 minutes?

And for how much longer can he really rely on the fitness of skipper Rob Jones?

The Scot will be scratching his head somewhat this morning. Back to work. Back to the drawing board.

That was the overwhelming feeling after Rovers were put firmly in their place by City’s slickers.

Things might have been very different had another contentious penalty decision not gone against Rovers yet again. It feels like a weekly occurrence.

When Forrester went flying in the box, earning the first of his two yellow cards for apparently diving, it was still goalless and Rovers were showing one or two signs of settling into their passing game.

But from that point on, the afternoon went downhill rapidly.

And the fact of the matter is that City emerged as comfortable winners without needing to play particularly well to dispatch Doncaster - because Rovers were their own worst enemies.

They conceded two first half goals that would not look out of place in the Donny Alliance League or Junior Sunday League (no offence to those leagues), later described as “schoolboy stuff” by a downbeat Dickov in his post-match press conference.

The senseless Forrester then kicked any hope of a comeback into touch when his frustration saw him collect a second yellow card, and second red in three games, for kicking the ball away shortly after the restart.

Well before then Jones had already hobbled off holding his hamstring, the latest injury setback for Rovers’ skipper.

Dickov had every right to be surprised by the below-par nature of Rovers’ performance, following what he labelled as a “first class” fortnight on the training ground.

Doncaster’s approach play was neat and tidy at times, but they lacked a killer ball in the final third and struggled to test Frank Fielding in the City goal.

James Coppinger and Kyle Bennett, who continued to operate in advanced wide roles, offered what little threat Rovers posed.

But what left a bad taste, and will have had Dickov fuming behind closed doors, is the slipshod defending that continues to blight Rovers’ return to League One.

Those Rovers fans of a nervous disposition should look away now.

For, despite the endless training ground drills during the international break, another set piece proved Rovers’ undoing yet again.

A free kick from the left was not dealt with, and bobbled around the six-yard box before Aaron Wilbraham eventually pounced from close range to send City on their way.

The Robins suddenly kicked into gear. Joe Bryan smacked the bar with a left foot volley and, just prior to Jones’ withdrawal, the lively Kieran Agard fired just wide.

But if you thought City’s first goal was soft, the second came straight from the pile that Danny Baker once used to make a little extra pocket money from.

This was a gaffe of almighty proportion from Cedric Evina, and it left Rovers with a mountain to climb.

The left back found himself in the right place at the right time to mop up some danger on his own goalline, but his dallying on the ball allowed Mark Little to slide in and score number two with a tackle.

It wasn’t quite game over at that point, but when Forrester walked six minutes into the second half it was goodnight.

Agard applied the gloss when he was given all the space and time he needed to fire past Jed Steer, albeit with the aid of a deflection.

And the scoreline could have got a lot, lot worse for Rovers had Steer not denied Agard twice more in the closing stages, as City cut through Doncaster’s demoralised backline at will.

Following back-to-back defeats, Doncaster desperately need some home comfort against Crawley tomorrow.

Whether the performance is good, bad or indifferent, Rovers in the short term must simply stem a tide of defeats and soft goals. Longer term, Dickov must solve that consistency puzzle.

Bristol City: Fielding 6, Little 6 (Wagstaff 72), Bryan 8, Flint 7, Williams 7, Ayling 7, Elliott 6, Smith 7, Freeman 7 (Pack 72), Wilbraham 7 (Emmanuel-Thomas 82), Agard 7.

Subs not used: Richards, El-Abd, Cunningham, Burns.

Rovers: Steer 6, Wabara 6, Evina 5, Jones 5 (McCombe 23), McCullough 6, Keegan 5 (Tyson 46), Wellens 6, Coppinger 6, Forrester 5, Bennett 6, Robinson 5.

Subs not used: Marosi, Furman, Wakefield, De Val, Whitehouse.