Paul Goodwin: Five things we learned from Doncaster Rovers’ draw with Nottingham Forest

Paul Dickov. Photo: Steve Uttley
Paul Dickov. Photo: Steve Uttley
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Sports writer Paul Goodwin picks out five things we learned from Doncaster Rovers’ 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest.

1. Paul Dickov is not about to make radical tactical changes

Find a way of playing and stick to it.

That was the action point that came out of conversations between senior players and the manager at the end of last season - and it appears Dickov has settled on a traditional 4-4-2 set-up, with the option to fine tune here and there.

The Scot will want to remain flexible, it’s in his nature.

But don’t expect Rovers to sway too much from two banks of four when they are out of possession.

With the ball, the widemen look like they will be given some licence to roam. Harry Forrester did this to good effect against the Reds.

Whether 4-4-2 gets the best out of Richie Wellens remains a source of debate.

But if Rovers do need extra legs in midfield a change to 4-4-1-1 will not cause major upheaval and people’s jobs will not change to any great extent.

2. Luke McCullough: the solution at right back?

Possibly.

The Northern Ireland international has apparently adapted well to the position in training and showed signs against Forest, where he made a few telling tackles and interceptions, that he could be a ready-made replacement for Reece Wabara.

It goes without saying McCullough does not possess the same qualities as Wabara. He won’t be bombing forward and getting to the by-line.

But, if Dickov does want his wingers to play with more freedom, a right back that can defend first and foremost might not be a bad call.

Youngster Mitchell Lund is waiting in the wings too, of course. But all the early signals would suggest that Dickov sees the teenager as good back-up to a more experienced operator.

3. Curtis Main is not about to give up the shirt without a fight

It is a fairly safe assumption that marquee signing Andy Williams will start up front for Doncaster against Bury on August 8.

But, on the evidence of Tuesday night, Main is not about to just lie down and let the former Swindon striker take his place.

Main completely overshadowed Williams, producing the sort of strong running, powerful and hard working display that Dickov really values.

With Nathan Tyson to come back in too, Main knows he has to produce in pre-season in order to force his way into the starting eleven - and he is already giving Dickov plenty of food for thought.

4. The young’uns are showing signs of coming of age

Young players have to step up to the mark at some point - and this could be the season.

Anyone who was at the Forest game can’t have failed to have been impressed by Harry Middleton, who delivered a cultured and composed performance in the middle of the park.

For youngsters to believe they can make the step up, there is often a mental and physical barrier to overcome. On Tuesday night Middleton looked and played like he belonged there.

A few of the young lads certainly look like they have bulked up over the summer.

Like Middleton, Billy Whitehouse all of a sudden looks more like a man than a boy out on the pitch. These two could be set for genuine breakthrough seasons.

5. Cedric Evina: a secret weapon!

His days looked numbered after being cast aside last season but Evina has reported back for pre-season in good shape and determined to make an impression at Doncaster.

Not many people would have predicted that that could be on the wing.

But following his stint on the left and right flanks against Forest, the former Arsenal youngster showed he has some of the attributes needed in those positions.

Evina has a good turn of pace, a decent touch, the ability to get up and down, and is also acutely aware of how a wide midfielder needs to support his full back.

With more work on his delivery, and perhaps with a bit more belief in himself, he could yet prove to be something of a secret weapon in more attacking areas.