Analysis: Doncaster Rovers 1 Port Vale 3

Cedric Evina plays Harry Forrester in
Cedric Evina plays Harry Forrester in
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‘Cheer Up Sleepy Jean’ rang out around the Keepmoat Stadium at half time on Saturday. The Monkees’ hit record could not have been more apt.

Three Port Vale goals inside 14 first half minutes had drained the confidence out of a shell-shocked Doncaster side, a pale shadow of the team that performed so well at Yeovil seven days previously.

James Coppinger takes on Mark Marshall and Carl Dickinson

James Coppinger takes on Mark Marshall and Carl Dickinson

And any daydream believers in the stands - lifted by two wins from two and perhaps guilty of allowing themselves to get carried away slightly - had been brought back down to earth with a big thud.

One week composed, the next week careless.

This was a reality check of epic proportions - a complete contrast to the control and almost arrogance that oozed from Rovers veins at Huish Park against an admittedly average Glovers side.

Rovers fans have been warned to expect this, while the new squad continues to bond and gel.

Harry Forrester surrounded by Port Vale players before being shown a red card

Harry Forrester surrounded by Port Vale players before being shown a red card

Paul Dickov has been very frank in reminding supporters that this team will have good days and bad days this season. He’s doing his best to keep expectations firmly grounded.

However, both Dickov and the club’s fans should expect a lot better than the fare served up in the first half.

And while Doncaster’s first defeat of the season was clouded by two controversial refereeing decisions, both of which went against Rovers, nothing can disguise or mask the sub-standard display before the break which Dickov labelled as “probably as poor as we’ve been since I’ve been here”.

Dickov will defend his players to the hilt when he sees energy, endeavour and sheer graft from them.

But sadly their inability to do the basics, or at least do them as well as a confident and competent Vale outfit, proved to be indefensible: conceding three goals from set pieces and continually giving possession away cheaply during a sobering first period.

Nevertheless, for ten minutes or so, Rovers actually had begun the game in a similar fashion to how they started at Yeovil; eager to set a high tempo and impose themselves on Vale. They forced a succession of early corners, while Nathan Tyson was denied by goalkeeper Sam Johnson after Curtis Main cleverly slipped him in.

But that early enthusiasm faded as the Valiants’ impressive central midfield pair Chris Lines and Michael O’Connor began to see more and more of the ball, winning their duel with Paul Keegan and Dean Furman, and gaining something of a foothold.

Still, there was very little between the sides when Doncaster pushed the self-destruct button in all-too-familiar fashion, failing to defend set pieces.

First, from O’Connor’s corner, Rovers’ marking went to pieces and despite Jed Steer blocking the initial near post header, Ben Williamson gratefully nodded home the rebound.

The second goal was even more galling; Tom Pope afforded time and space to fire home from an improbable angle after Doncaster’s defence failed to deal with a throw-in.

And two minutes later the game was over, from another corner, although on this occasion there were mitigating factors as Steer was manhandled before his punch was volleyed home in emphatic fashion by full back Carl Dickinson.

Cue glum faces all round at the interval.

Rovers now had just pride to play for, and with the introduction of Mark De Val and Kyle Bennett standards improved - although by this time Vale were happy to drop off.

De Val was neat and tidy on the ball, while Bennett buzzed around in the final third, and was rewarded for his effort when his ambitious 25-yard drive looped over Johnson to hand Rovers a lifeline.

For a few minutes those daydream believers dared to dream of a comeback, dreams shattered by Mr Eltringham when he and his assistant deemed that Harry Forrester had kicked Johnson in the face and sent off Doncaster’s star man.

At the time it seemed harsh. It seemed like a genuine attempt to reach the ball. But Forrester’s dismissal added insult to injury on an afternoon that also saw Main limp off with a twisted knee and Reece Wabara play the second half with a troublesome hamstring.

Hardly scope to cheer up. Quite the opposite.

But the underlying lesson from a forgettable afternoon was that Doncaster simply must do the basics better - or those early season smiles of last week will quickly turn to frowns.