Analysis: Job done - and this could just be the start of the Doncaster Rovers revival

Rovers players celebrate securing promotion

Rovers players celebrate securing promotion

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They started quite tentatively but ultimately got the job done.

That was the story on Saturday as Doncaster Rovers dealt with another plucky, but somewhat limited, side in Mansfield Town to seal their instant return to League One and spark scenes of wild celebration at the Keepmoat Stadium.

Darren Ferguson and John Marquis

Darren Ferguson and John Marquis

And that has been the story of a memorable season really. Oh how that opening day defeat at Accrington Stanley now feels like an eternity ago.

For Darren Ferguson has since moulded a team and squad that has grown in confidence, stature and unity as the campaign has wore on - and in all likelihood will now end in winning the League Two crown.

But while their achievement this term should not be downplayed - and you only have to look at the problems Portsmouth have had getting out of this league to put Rovers’ promotion into some sort of context - the really exciting thing is that you get the distinct feeling that this is just the start.

The majority of this Rovers squad have this season played at a level at least one below par.

Mansfield keeper Jake Kean can't keep out Tommy Rowe's header

Mansfield keeper Jake Kean can't keep out Tommy Rowe's header

In some cases, like Tommy Rowe, you could argue two.

But united by the club’s ambition to really kick on, and also driven on by the unrelenting Ferguson, they are a group who firmly believe they have what it takes to challenge for promotion again next season in the next league up.

And who would bet against it?

Ferguson has form for back-to-back promotions.

Tommy Rowe

Tommy Rowe

A strong spine, and a good mix of youth and experience, means the Scot can concentrate on adding quality rather than quantity over the summer.

So with momentum now very much on their side, which is a far cry from when Ferguson first arrived at the club 18 months ago, this could just be the beginning of the Rovers revival.

THAT WINNING HABIT

Perhaps the sense of occasion got to a few players because Rovers were far from at their best against the hard-working Stags.

They had the better of the first half opportunities as John Marquis and Andy Williams both wasted good headed chances and Rowe spurned a clear opening after being picked out by the excellent Luke McCullough.

Mansfield were well organised and made life difficult, but they sat deeper as the game wore on and seemed content with a point.

The introduction of James Coppinger and Alfie May swung the pendulum in the hosts’ favour, though, and it was from Coppinger’s left wing corner which Rowe rose superbly at the near post to guide a header into the far corner.

Rovers had been far from fluent - and had to survive a late Stags onslaught - but yet again they had found a way of winning. Yet again their extra quality told in the end.

THE KEY FACTORS

Promotion has been a proper team effort. Everyone has played their part, on the pitch and off it.

The seeds were sown right at the end of last season when Burton Albion celebrated promotion on the Keepmoat pitch while Rovers reflected on a sorry campaign. Ferguson’s message in the dressing room that day was clear - ‘make sure we’re the ones celebrating this time next year’.

From that point the club has been proactive and professional in achieving its very clear objective.

Transfer business was done nice and early for a change. And the recruitment was excellent.

Loan signings no longer arrived to simply prop up the squad but offered genuine quality.

And there was no resting on laurels in January either when Ian Lawlor, Conor Grant and Alfie May arrived as reinforcements.

The manager’s unrelenting desire for high standards has been key. He’s got the big decisions right.

And his players have done him proud. They’ve shown character, quality and togetherness in abundance.

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