Analysis: Darren Ferguson denies fan altercation as Doncaster Rovers slip to 1-0 defeat against Oxford United

Ben Whiteman shields the ball. Photo: Marie Caley
Ben Whiteman shields the ball. Photo: Marie Caley
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Darren Ferguson denied shouting at a Doncaster Rovers fan during his team’s sucker punch defeat to Oxford United.

James Henry’s second half header earned The U’s three precious points in their battle to stay in League One and condemned Rovers to their first defeat in seven games.

Photo: Marie Caley

Photo: Marie Caley

Ferguson, who bemoaned his side’s lack of clinical edge, had admitted to being disappointed by the ‘frustration’ inside the Keepmoat Stadium during last Tuesday’s topsy-turvy 3-3 draw with Bury and referred to some “harsh” comments from supporters sat behind him in the West Stand.

With Doncaster on course to consolidate their place back in the third tier, he called for some perspective as the club continues a building process geared towards retaining Championship status.

Shortly before half time, with the game still 0-0 and Rovers not by any means playing badly, Ferguson appeared to react angrily to someone shouting ‘Sort it out Fergie’.

In his post-match press conference he denied what he shouted back was aimed at a supporter.

John Marquis

John Marquis

WHAT WAS SAID?

Ferguson speaking to the media: We’ve got promoted and we’re mid-table at the moment.

It’s not a disaster but obviously a lot of people are still not happy about it.

Reporter: Yeah, there was certainly one guy not happy about it just before half time who I think you might’ve had to have a word with...

Andy Williams

Andy Williams

DF: I had a word with him? No, I didn’t have a word with anyone.

Reporter: You didn’t shout at anybody?

DF: I shouted at someone but not a fan. I wasn’t shouting at anyone [among the fans].

Maybe we have to be careful what we wish for.

STORY OF THE MATCH

The incident was an interesting sub-plot on a day when the football was frustrating and largely quite forgettable.

This was not quite smash and grab from Oxford, but it was not far off.

As you would expect for a side in their position, the visitors showed plenty of fight and endeavour - and they more than held their own against a Rovers side minus mainstays James Coppinger and Tommy Rowe.

But it was Doncaster who always looked more dangerous and more likely to score. They did some nice things, they also did some sloppy things. They just couldn’t finish.

Alfie May worked a good opening for himself during a nip and tuck first half but was denied by the impressive Simon Eastwood.

The game hinged on the first 20 minutes of the second period.

John Marquis headed Niall Mason’s excellent free-kick delivery wide when he should have hit the target. The striker claimed a push in the back.

Marquis then had the ball in the net, sweeping home Ben Whiteman’s centre, only for the linesman’s flag to go up.

Matty Blair, teed up by Rodney Kongolo, then ought to have done better from point blank range. His shot was at a good height for Eastwood.

That was the cue for Rovers to needlessly give the ball away in midfield and Ryan Ledson crossed for Henry to beat Marko Marosi at his near post with a powerful downward header.

And just to add to Doncaster’s frustration referee Martin Coy waved away appeals for penalties when May and substitute Jordan Houghton tumbled in the box.

It wasn’t Rovers’ day.

THE BIG ISSUE

Without the skill and finesse of Coppinger, Rowe and also Alfie Beestin, perhaps it was not such a big surprise that Rovers failed to score at home in a league game for the first time since October.

But that statistic does not tell the full story.

Rovers are the eighth lowest scorers in League One with 52 goals in 42 games. Promoted Wigan have scored 86, relegated Bury 38.

And that very ordinary goal return is very unlike Darren Ferguson, given the reputation he earned at Peterborough United for his attack-minded approach.

Is it an issue with his budget? Or should the manager be getting more out of the players at his disposal?

Either way, there is currently too much of a reliance on Marquis, not enough incision in the final third and Rovers don’t get behind teams as much as they should do.

On the plus side this team have become harder to beat over the course of the season. They have kept goals out at the other end and found their feet at this level.

But, in order to push on, the shortage of goals must be addressed.