Analysis: Professional Rovers finally earn consecutive wins '“ Rovers 3 Northampton Town 0
Santa finally delivered what Rovers have been wishing for since the start of the season '“ back-to-back league wins.
The Christmas period has so far been good for Doncaster Rovers as they followed up Saturday’s hard-fought win at Bristol Rovers with a comfortable triumph over struggling Northampton Town.
While shaking the monkey off their back of having failed to string two wins together is a major plus point for Darren Ferguson and company, the manner in which they did it is both more impressive – and more heartening.
The triumph over Bristol Rovers was about resolve, battle and bottle. They took the lead and, despite coming under plenty of pressure, they refused to let it slip.
Against Northampton they took the opportunity to show their quality with the football and also a degree of ruthlessness to blast out of sight arguably the poorest team to have visited the Keepmoat this season.
Two strings to the Rovers bow in two victories. The progression the side has been making in recent weeks looks to be coming together nicely.
Wearing a charity third kit in aid of the mental health charity CALM, they delivered post-Christmas cheer for supporters.
The Cobblers may be flawed but that should not take away from the performance which Rovers turned in to secure the win.
James Coppinger marked his return to the side after injury with a goal before Niall Mason netted from the spot for second consecutive game to give Rovers a cushion at the break.
Given the intensity of this period of the season, Rovers could ill-afford to make hard work of the second half.
So it was pleasing when further good play was capped when Andy Butler made it three with 24 minutes of the game to go.
It gave Rovers the opportunity to ease of slightly, make the ball do the work and have Friday night’s game with Rochdale in the back of their minds.
The Rochdale game was in Ferguson’s mind when he dropped Jordan Houghton, Joe Wright and Alfie Beestin to the bench with Ben Whiteman, James Coppinger and Alfie May coming into the side.
The load has been spread as much as it could be before Friday night.
And to Rovers’ credit, they did not look at all tired after their weekend’s exertions.
That was down to the great deal of professionalism with which they approached the game and then saw it out in comfortable fashion.
Over the first half hour, they were the better of the two sides without being spectacular.
In the early stages they looked to send balls over the top for May to run onto and he caused more than a few panicky moments for the Northampton defence and keeper Matt Ingram.
And when plenty of defensive attention went onto May, Rovers began to work the ball out wide which helped them get bodies forward into the box.
It paid off when they took the lead on 22 minutes. John Marquis drew a save from Ingram after excellent work from Tommy Rowe before Coppinger put the ball over the line after his first effort hit the inside of the post.
Ian Lawlor made an important save to deny Shaun McWilliams and it paid off moments later when Rovers were awarded a penalty two minutes from the break.
Marquis – who turned in another tireless, effective performance – was needlessly tripped by Matt Grimes.
Mason took the ball off Coppinger and avoided blushes by drilling into the corner from the spot.
Rovers were incredibly comfortable against a toothless Northampton side who managed just one other shot on target.
Both May and Marquis should have scored in the same sequence with Ingram denying both.
But they eventually ensured greater comfort when Butler slotted in from close range after Grimes cleared off the line from a Mathieu Baudry header.
The game was done and dusted from there and attention could turn to getting bodies ready for the next stage of the festive marathon.
Back-to-back wins has been ticked off the wish-list. How about three on the bounce next?