Analysis: Doncaster Rovers 0 Burton Albion 0 - Relegated Rovers need root and branch surgery
Doncaster Rovers require root and branch surgery this summer to halt their alarming fall from grace.
But that might be a lot easier said than done.
After sinking almost completely without trace since the turn of the year, but for a late rally when the pressure was pretty much off, Rovers might as well rip up their current manual and start entirely from scratch.
Yesterday’s dull final day draw with a Burton Albion team heading very firmly in the opposite direction put a full stop next to a season that has proven to be instantly forgettable.
While Burton made off with the point that saw them reach the second tier of English football for the first time, from a Doncaster perspective a drab contest only served to underline the ginormous job now facing Darren Ferguson.
Here is a manager famed for his no-fear, attacking football. So for Doncaster not to register a single shot on goal during a pitiful first half, after Ferguson had called on his players to at least give their fans a decent send-off, rather summed up the abject failure that this campaign has come to represent.
And that’s failure by Ferguson, his staff, his players, his predecessors and his superiors in the boardroom. Failure of the highest order.
Ferguson himself has spoken about a ‘staleness’ and ‘lax’ feeling in and around the club since he was appointed last October.
And quite clearly, after an embarrassing relegation from League One and that mind-boggling 17-game sequence without a win, it has transcended onto the pitch.
But it hasn’t just happened overnight.
Since Rovers failed to keep their heads above the water in the Championship two years ago, a culture of mediocrity and failure appears to have become dangerously deep-rooted at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Losing has become a habit and the concept of winning, and performing consistently at a good level, has become almost completely alien.
Only change at every level will now turn the tide at a club that has undone all of the hard work of memorably climbing from the Conference to the Championship in the blink of an eye.
In the short term the playing squad quite clearly requires major surgery. More leaders, more muscle and a whole lot more nous will be required in League Two.
Ferguson will wield the axe over the coming days and then attempt to bring in the players he hopes can help lift Doncaster out of the doldrums.
But, with virtually the entire senior squad still under contract for next season, you just wonder whether the makeover will go far enough? And will it rid the club of the inherent problems that seem to be lingering under the surface?
Change has to extend further.
The management must review their methods. The strange decision to hold onto the coaching staff associated with the Paul Dickov regime must also be reviewed.
Above that, when it comes to transfer policy, Rovers cannot continue to rely on loan players to bail them out. The abolishment of the emergency loan window next season will force the club’s hand in that respect.
But longer term they must also seek to build a new younger team that is proud to play for Doncaster.
At the moment they appear to have a collection of individuals with very little pride in the shirt, too many lacking in accountability, too many lacking in mental toughness. It’s a mess that needs sorting out right now.
Yesterday’s game did little to lighten the mood. Albion had begun to look edgy towards the end of a timid first half that saw neither goalkeeper troubled.
The game livened up slightly after the break. Indeed Rovers might have thrown a huge spanner in the works had Andy Woolmer seen Phil Edwards’ clumsy challenge on Andy Williams inside the area differently.
Remi Matthews made a good save to deny Calum Butcher in a one-on-one after the substitute picked Andy Butler’s pocket and latched onto Lucas Akins’ pass.
But drama and incident was thin on the ground until late on, when Rovers were forced to see out the game with nine men following injuries to Aaron Taylor-Sinclair and Riccardo Calder.
Woolmer’s final whistle signalled an outpouring of joy among the Burton fans, who spilled onto the pitch to celebrate back-to-back promotions.
At the other end of the ground there was a sense of relief that this horrible season was finally over.
The Burton celebrations prevented Rovers’ players returning from the dressing room to thank their suffering fans. For those of them still around next season, they have got a lot of making up to do.
ROVERS: Matthews 6, Lund 6, Alcock 6, Butler 6, Taylor-Sinclair 6, McCullough 6, Middleton 6 (Calder 54), Chaplow (Longbottom 62) 6, Rowe 6, Mandeville 5 (Tyson 54), Williams 5. Subs not used: Marosi, Pugh, Whitehouse, Davies.
burton: McLaughlin, Edwards, Mousinho, Cansdell-Sheriff, McCrory, Akins, Choudhury, Palmer, Naylor (Weir 80), Duffy, Beavon (Butcher 46). Subs not used: Bywater, Reilly, Harness, Walker, O’Connor.
Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northamptonshire)