AS NEWS filtered through that former DJ and television presenter Sir Jimmy Savile had passed away, Dean Saunders must wish he had a striker to fix Doncaster Rovers goal shortage.
Boasting the bluntest attack in the whole of the Football League, Rovers have struck just nine goals in 14 league outings; a mere four on home soil. It is an alarming record which urgently needs addressing if the club are to retain their Championship status.
While Saunders’ men were not short of the three E’s; effort, endeavour or enthusiasm against Coventry City, the hosts lacked the composure and poise in the final third to see off a side who had not won on their travels all season and just once on the road in 2011.
Saunders is acutely aware of the necessity to bring in reinforcements to add some much-needed firepower to the forward line if his team are to get out of the precarious situation they find themselves in. His troops are joint bottom of the table following four matches without a win and are four points adrift of 21st placed Watford.
Without the services of Billy Sharp due to personal reasons and beefy front man Jon Parkin, who returned to parent club Cardiff City following the expiry of his one-month loan deal, Saunders options up front were limited.
Sharp was sorely missed and remains a major doubt to feature in tomorrow night’s home engagement with high-flying Middlesbrough while Saunders is also downbeat over the prospect of bringing back Parkin, nicknamed ‘The Beast’, to the Keepmoat Stadium.
“We have got loads of irons in the fire,” he admitted. “The players I’m asking to come are top players and I’m trying to persuade them to come and play for us.
“I need to do something quickly because we are looking a bit short now. We didn’t have a striker on the bench and the players who are up there are about 10 stone!”
On the possibility of re-signing Parkin, Saunders said: “I made an offer to Cardiff to take him until January and they didn’t accept the offer. It was quite expensive for us to do the deal.
“Obviously he was signed when Billy (Sharp) was injured and Chris Brown is a week away from playing so hopefully he can comeback into the fold.
“I’ve got a few players coming back but I need to get some players in.”
Expect top football agent Willie McKay, who has been given a major role in the club’s transfer policy, to use his full array of contacts to help Saunders strengthen his squad during the winter months.
Rovers created a plethora of goal-scoring opportunities; they just failed to capitalise on them. Giles Barnes and Kyle Bennett provided the creativity out wide in Rovers fluid 4-3-3 formation, where Herita Ilunga, operating in a deep-lying midfield position, produced an industrious performance, but there were too many occasions where James Hayter cut an isolated, forlorn figure. Concussion forced Barnes off at half-time and it was replacement, James Coppinger, who set up Hayter’s equaliser.
Before Sammy Clingan’s stunning long range effort on the half hour mark, Bennett, Barnes and Hayter spurned presentable opportunities to put the hosts ahead. Had this happened, who knows what the final outcome might have been?
Rovers cancelled out Clingan’s opener after the break courtesy of Hayter, who tapped in Coppinger’s cross from close range.
Saunders said: “It was important we never lost the game although I’m disappointed we didn’t get three points. Middlesbrough got beat 3-0 so they will be looking for a reaction and we will be ready for them. We’d lost three in a row so it stopped a little bit of a bad run.
“The encouraging aspect was that we came from behind and that’s not the first time we’ve managed to dig out a result since I came here. Their goal was the first shot they had. It was a great strike from the boy.
“I said to the boys at half time that they have to keep walking through it and don’t let it affect us. I told them to go out there as if it was 0-0 and if we got one, we might get three.
“We looked like we wanted to win it and everybody had a go - and that’s all I can ask from them.”
Saunders praised the impact winger Coppinger made from off the bench, saying: “He has not been in the team but he has trained brilliantly all week and he did well when he came on. He showed what he was made of because he could have dropped his head and thought I don’t want to be here.
“James Hayter reacted in the same way. He played well today.”
There were positives for Saunders to draw upon from the stalemate but the reality is Coventry are likely to be one of the poorer sides to visit the Keepmoat. Had Lukas Jutkiewicz and Cody McDonald been more ruthless in front of goal, Andy Thorn’s side could have snatched maximum points late on, which would have been hard on a Rovers team who demonstrated plenty of character and spirit.
A point gained or two points lost? Only time will tell but at least Saunders battlers stopped the rot.