Analysis: Doncaster Rovers’ season at a crossroads heading into Christmas - Rovers 1 Oldham 1

Andy Butler wheels away after putting Rovers ahead against Oldham
Andy Butler wheels away after putting Rovers ahead against Oldham
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Doncaster Rovers’ season is at something of a crossroads going into a key festive programme.

The feeling within the club is that progress is being made and two defeats in the last 11 games in all competitions would seem to be back that up.

Tommy Rowe

Tommy Rowe

But another costly late goal against Oldham Athletic, and a certain vulnerability that just refuses to go away, means 18th placed Rovers continue to just keep their heads above water back in League One.

With their next three games all against sides in and around them in the table - Bristol Rovers, Northampton Town and Rochdale - Rovers’ season could potentially go one of two ways.

Either they deliver the goods over Christmas, fulfil their potential and gradually move clear of danger.

Or they slip back into bad habits, suffer a festive hangover and face the glum prospect of starting the new year in the bottom four.

STORY OF THE MATCH

The return of Latics boss Richie Wellens to the Keepmoat Stadium promised much but this closely contested fixture offered little in the entertainment stakes.

Both sides had one excellent chance before the break. Andy Butler made a superb goalline clearance to deny Gaevaro Nepomuceno and Oldham goalkeeper Johny Placide had to be at full stretch to keep out Alfie May.

It was no surprise that when the deadlock was broken it came from a set piece, Butler powerfully heading home Tommy Rowe’s freekick on the hour mark.

But from that point Rovers lost their way and the visitors kept knocking on the door for an equaliser, which eventually arrived in the 88th minute when a ball in from the left was flicked on by Aaron Holloway and Eoin Doyle did the rest from close range. In truth it was a fair result.

MENTALLY STRONGER?

Conceding yet another late goal was one thing but arguably even more disappointing was the way Rovers lost their composure after going ahead.

With Darren Ferguson’s words about game management ringing in their ears, the hosts looked far from a side confident they could hold onto what they had.

Rovers failed to go for the kill, they gave the ball away far too cheaply and there was an element of predictability about the late leveller.

Rovers would be sitting comfortably in the top half had they not shipped so many last gasp goals. And, after Ferguson was critical of the mental strength of the side that slipped through the League One trapdoor two seasons ago, his current side are facing similar accusations from frustrated fans.

POSITIVES IN DEFEAT

The shortage of goals remains a problem but Rovers, generally speaking, are performing at a decent level and have made themselves harder to beat than earlier in the season.

John Marquis might not have scored but he’s back to being a pest, while chance creation is not an issue.

It’s also worth pointing out that Rovers were without no fewer than eight players on Saturday but still came agonisingly close to getting the job done.

VIEW FROM THE DUGOUT

Ferguson: “It’s a disappointing result. Again we’ve thrown away two points right at the death.

“At the moment we’re just not getting the rub of the green. What can you do when your centre half is going to head it away, he slips and Doyle scores?

“There’s not a great deal I can do to prevent that incident but certainly in the last 15 minutes we didn’t keep the ball well enough.”

Wellens: “We definitely deserved something out of the game, the last half an hour at times was the Alamo.

“The only disappointment for me was that we didn’t test the keeper enough.

“Whenever you go one nil down in this league, especially away from home it’s a positive to take a point.”