Doncaster Rovers: What we learned from the goalless draw with Gillingham

Liam Mandeville in action against Gillingham. Picture: Marie Caley
Liam Mandeville in action against Gillingham. Picture: Marie Caley
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Rovers battled out a goalless draw with Gillingham on the opening day of the season as they returned to League One with an impressive performance.

Here is what we learned.

BEN WHITEMAN HAS THE MAKINGS OF A FINE DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER

It is easy to look at the Sheffield United loanee and think he would be wasted if confined to a defensive midfield role. Technically blessed and with a great eye for both shot and pass, surely he would be better used if fielded higher up the pitch.

But Whiteman's performance against the Gills suggested otherwise.

Boss Darren Ferguson explained he opted for the 21-year-old at the base of the midfield diamond because he believed he would often be freed up against the 3-5-2 system of Gillingham.

And so it proved as Whiteman had plenty of time to pick passes and also plenty of space in the opposition half to show off his prowess with shots from distance.

Twice late in the game Whiteman smacked a piledriver, one which rattled the bar and the other which required a brave header to prevent it from flying into the top corner.

But he also contributed to the defensive side of things as well, working box to box and using his size to disrupt Gillingham's play effectively.

It might not be the most obvious use of Whiteman's talents but he may yet make the defensive midfield role his own.

LIAM MANDEVILLE HAS GONE FROM BOY TO MAN

He was the star of pre-season for Rovers but his best performance so far was reserved for the first taste of competitive action.

Mandeville is a player transformed - both physically and mentally.

On the physical side, Mandeville has bulked up significantly and looks much stronger. He battled hard with Gillingham's back three.

And mentally, he is much more positive. Desperate to get on the ball, he linked up play exceptionally well and also got himself into some excellent positions for scoring chances.

With both Alex Kiwomya and Andy Williams on the sidelines, Mandeville is staking a real claim to be part of the first choice strike partnership.

BLITZING TEAMS OUT OF SIGHT WON'T BE AS EASY AS LAST SEASON

There were not many occasions in League Two when Rovers were held at bay by the opposition, particularly when they were as dominant as they were against Gillingham.

It was not profligacy which cost Rovers on Saturday. They simply came up against a brick wall which refused to be knocked down.

And that was against a side which struggled last season and is widely tipped to do so again.

It provided a timely reminder that Rovers will not have it all their own way this term. When excellent chances come, they need to be taken.

DANNY ANDREW'S LONG THROW COULD BE A USEFUL WEAPON

It was not something particularly used in pre-season but the long thrown of the new left back got a good airing against the Gills.

Not since the days of Tommy Spurr have Rovers had someone in their ranks who can chuck the ball into the danger zone.

Andrew can comfortably reach the six yard box from well down the pitch.

While it did not cause many problems for the Gillingham defence, it is a great weapon for Rovers to have in their collective back pocket for the season.

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT RODNEY

The first appearance in Rovers colours of Manchester City loanee Rodney Kongolo may have been short and sweet but there was enough there to get people excited for the future.

Chief among these was a brilliant first touch that allows the midfielder to turn defence into attack quickly.

Kongolo looks mentally sharp, with the ability to spark rapid counterattacks, which will be incredibly useful for Rovers.

Arguably John Marquis should have scored after a brilliant counter sparked by an impressive run from Kongolo and a well-timed pass into the box.

There may be work to be done before the Dutchman is ready to start games consistently, but there was enough in his first cameo to suggest Rovers could have a quality player on their hands.