Analysis: Doncaster Rovers show some much-needed resolve in 1-0 win at Bristol Rovers

It cannot be said that this Rovers side do not come up with answers.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 25th December 2017, 11:36 am
Updated Monday, 25th December 2017, 11:40 am
Ian Lawlor
Ian Lawlor

Okay, it may take them a while to deliver one but they do get their eventually.

Getting back to winning ways was important with the threat of being drawn into a relegation fight drawing ever more near.

But what they really needed to show was their resolve and backbone.

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After conceding costly late goals in their last two matches, Rovers needed to stand up to pressure and take something from their trip to the Memorial Stadium - and they did just that.

More on that shortly.

The win came from via the penalty spot and a wonderfully no-nonsense spot kick from the unlikely figure of Niall Mason, who was given the opportunity after Tommy Rowe was bundled over by Ryan Sweeney on 33 minutes.

Mason put himself forward for duty just before the start of the game and showed just why by smashing straight down the middle for his first goal in senior football.

It gave Rovers a lead to hold onto and they responded superbly.


After impressing on the ball at times in a back and forth first half, Rovers were put on the back foot in the second as Bristol Rovers pushed hard for the equaliser.

Gas get men forward in numbers, swarming in from down the sides and committing players into the box.

For a ten minute period during the mid-point of the second period it looked like Rovers were going to become overwhelmed by it. Thoughts naturally turned to the late goals of recent weeks.

But they were not overwhelmed.

Granted, it needed a fine performance from Ian Lawlor and a match-winning one at that.

He got down superbly in difficult conditions to bat away efforts from Rory Gaffney and Billy Bodin.

And he saved the best for late on when his stunning one-handed save kept out Lee Brown’s excellently struck free kick.

The late goal curse did appear to have struck when, from that save, Tom Nichols hooked the ball back from the byline and Ellis Harrison bundled in from close range.

But while the vociferous home support celebrated, the referee’s assistant had his flag up to signal the ball had gone out of play before Nichols’ intervention.

Rovers held on. And as they game moved into those dangerous final moments, they actually looked more assured than they had at any point during the game.

Late goals may have been plaguing supporters’ minds but not the players.

Organisation was excellent and silly mistakes were absent. They did what they needed to do.

There is some work to be done of course for them to truly show they have shaken off the curse but this was a reassuring start.


John Marquis was singled out for praise by Ferguson after the game and rightly so.

Clear on Saturday was that this freshly aggressive Rovers approach is majorly driven by the striker and what he does on the pitch.

He works tirelessly to press and harry opposition defences and it lays down a marker for the rest of the team. Marquis is quite literally leading from the front.

He forces errors and finds space which helps to put Rovers quickly on the front foot when they have been out of possession.

The goals may not be flowing for the 25-year-old but performances like this one show just how valuable he is to the team even when not hitting the back of the net.

And his approach has influence on those around him.

Alfie Beestin sought to match his strike partner’s work rate and will certainly have known he was in a game.

The youngster showed how tough and strong he is by repeatedly shielding the ball to hold up play against a physically robust Gas side, often using his superb close control to spin away from players.


Bristol Rovers: Smith, Leadbitter (Telford 87), Lockyear, Sweeney, Brown. Partington, Bodin, Sercombe, Sinclair (Lines 67), Harrison, Gaffney (Nichols 73). Subs not used: Slocombe, Clarke, Broadbent, Bola.

Rovers: Lawlor, Wright, Butler, Baudry, Mason, Kongolo (Whiteman 72), Houghton, Rowe, Garratt, Beestin (May 75), Marquis. Subs not used: Marosi, Alcock, Ben Khemis, Longbottom, Mandeville.

Referee: Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire)

Attendance: 8,300 (332 away)