Liam Hoden analyses Doncaster Rovers' battling 1-0 win at Bury
There are plenty of ways to produce a reaction to a disappointing performance.
In beating Bury, Rovers delivered one that was just what the doctor ordered.
It was not pretty, it was not sparkling but it was unapologetically effective.
They did not need to conjure up the fine possession-based attacking football of which we all know they are capable.
Instead, it was about character, composure and resolve.
Rovers had to battle, they had to hold their nerve and they had to be patient.
After capitulating so woefully the previous week against Walsall, this dogged performance did more to reignite faith in their collective ability than any 5-0 demolition could.
After Bury went down to ten men in first half stoppage time when Eoghan O’Connell was rightly sent off for bringing down the breaking John Marquis, Rovers were presented with a second half in which they would bang on the door almost constantly.
Given what they have done on occasion already this term, it could so easily have been a game in which they conspired to shoot themselves in the foot.
But they remained on task, stuck to the plan and had faith in it.
And they were rewarded 12 minutes from time when the ball fell to substitute Ben Whiteman and he placed a shot into the top corner with such deft simplicity and composure from 15 yards out.
For once, Rovers got what they deserved. They got what they had earned.
TWO TURNING POINTS
A pair of first-half incidents undoubtedly played into Rovers’ hands.
Bury lost striker Jermaine Beckford to injury 38 minutes in. Beckford who has scored half his side’s goals this term and the only one of the squad to net more than two.
His enforced departure neutered the hosts considerably, especially given the former Leeds man was by far their most threatening player to that point.
And then there was O’Connell’s dismissal. Marquis burst clear and in his desperate scramble to rein the striker in, O’Connell clumsily brought him down.
A side low on confidence and low on attacking threat was suddenly low on numbers and it was left to Rovers to take advantage.
Darren Ferguson went back to the 3-4-3 system that worked so well in the impressive victory over Portsmouth earlier in the month.
And it certainly worked.
James Coppinger and Tommy Rowe ably supported hard-working John Marquis and helped ensure the pressure remained high on Bury, whether Rovers had the ball or not.
Rodney Kongolo, though erratic, provided strong running from midfield while Harry Toffolo and even Craig Alcock got into some excellent advanced positions from wing-back.
Jordan Houghton delivered an immense performance, both shielding the back three and providing the foundation for everything that went on in front of him.
This system appears to get the best out of what Rovers have - particularly as it allows Ferguson to slot Mathieu Baudry in a back three with Andy Butler and Joe Wright, who have built a strong partnership.
A THOUGHT FOR WILLIAMS
On his return to the side off the bench, Andy Williams produced a typically hard-working performance as Rovers chased victory.
He ran the Bury defence hard and got into some wonderfully threatening positions.
What he did afterwards was less impressive.
Williams could easily have scored four on Saturday in less than 25 minutes. He should certainly have had two with a couple of incredible chances.
The veteran is in one of those ruts right now where, no matter what he does, he just cannot hit the back of the net.
Hopefully in the two cup games to follow he gets the chance to do so.