Behind-the-scenes turmoil may have the nerves jangling at Doncaster Rovers but their makeshift squad moved to calm them with a confident performance in triumphing 4-0 at Grimsby Town.
Goals from Nathan Tyson, Kyle Bennett, Theo Robinson and Alex Peterson saw Rovers through their latest pre-season friendly as they made their first appearance following Thursday’s dramatic collapse of John Ryan and Louis Tomlinson’s takeover of the club.
With youth packing the bench plus plenty of notable absences from the squad, the continued fallout of the failed buyout was clear to see on a bleak night on the east coast.
Of the summer’s numerous trialists, only striker Nathan Tyson and goalkeepers Ben Williams and Jamie Ashdown played a part.
And out-of-contract players Paul Keegan and James Coppinger were absent, along with Richie Wellens, whose future has been in doubt all summer.
But Paul Dickov himself was the most notable absence during the first half, delayed due to his meeting with the club’s hierarchy over his once-again revised playing budget.
Dickov arrived during half-time when his side were already three goals up.
Had he been at Blundell Park for the first half, he would no doubt have been encouraged by what he saw, particularly following the disappointing performances in the two friendlies prior to the week in Portugal.
It took just 16 seconds for energetic Rovers to open the scoring as they caught their hosts more than a little flat-footed.
The lively Bennett raced down the right and whipped in a low cross which Tyson tapped in from close range.
Bennett’s energy was rewarded with a goal after 20 minutes. He was sent clear with a superbly-weighted through ball from the impressive Marc De Val before rounding James McKeown and tapping into an empty net.
The third came on 31 minutes with Bennett again playing a big role.
He sprinted clear on the right and delivered into the box where Robinson had plenty of space to hook a half volley into the bottom corner from 15 yards.
There was a notable drop off in the second half when passing was not as crisp, energy levels not as high and chances less frequent. Dickov picked the wrong half to miss.
Grimsby should have pulled a deserved goal back when Liam Wakefield was caught ball-watching, allowing Nathan Arnold to sneak in onto a cross, only to hit his shot over.
When it seemed the game would peter out, Rovers struck again with six minutes to go. Robinson headed a cross down with substitute Peterson hooking a volley into the far corner from 15 yards.
There may be plenty of work for Dickov to do but plenty of squad members put their hands up to lead Rovers through this difficult time.
Rovers: Williams (Ashdown 46), Wakefield (McKay 90), Askins (Brown 46), McCullough, Husband (Greasley 90), Bennett (Whitehouse 63), Forrester (Ferguson 77), Furman (Linley 90), De Val (Head 88), Robinson, Tyson (Peterson 46).
Grimsby: McKeown, McLaughlin, Thomas, Aristoto, Pearson, Magnay, Mackreth, Trialist, Pittman, John-Lewis, Arnold. Subs: Bignot, Bastock, Brown, Hannah, Neilson, Trialist, Humble, Walker, Winfarrah.