Analysis: Shrewsbury Town 2 Doncaster Rovers 2 - Another ‘performance of two halves’, the French connection and set piece frailty

Issam Ben Khemis
Issam Ben Khemis
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Doncaster Rovers simply do not know how to lose League One matches right now.

But they must begin to tie performances together if they are to achieve their potential this season.

It seems churlish to be critical following a superb come-from-behind draw at promotion-chasing Shrewsbury Town.

Yet, it was another performance of two halves that left plenty of head scratching as to why they cannot function at a high level across a full 90 minutes.

Whereas in the previous week they failed to continue an excellent first half performance into the second, this time it took until after the break for them to truly get started.

It is fair to say when Carlton Morris added Shrewsbury’s second on 52 minutes - after Mat Sadler put them ahead midway through the first half - few would have expected Rovers to get anything from the game.

They had been largely overwhelmed by the hard press that has taken Shrewsbury to such unimaginable heights so far this season.

It denied them the space they craved to get their passing game going, instead leaving them on the back foot and struggling to get out of their own territory.

They panicked in possession which only increased the pressure upon them.

Yet, after conceding a second, along with a little tactical tinkering, they found their composure and began to put the pressure on themselves, with the crisp passing and incisive running coming to the fore, finally.

Goals from Mathieu Baudry and Issam Ben Khemis brought them level and earned them a valuable point which many would have accepted before the game.

But there is the nagging feeling that Rovers are so close to being so much more.

THE FRENCH CONNECTION

Both Baudry and Ben Khemis started the game on the bench and both were probably surprised to find themselves on the pitch when they did.

For Baudry, his introduction came 11 minutes in after Andy Butler had suffered an apparently severe hip injury.

He performed well, showing decent defensive composure while also attempting to drive Rovers forward by charge out from the back with the ball.

And he showed tremendous determination to power onto James Coppinger’s corner and bundle a header home from close range.

For Ben Khemis, even being on the pitch for the last 20 minutes will have been a surprise given his lack of game time this season.

Sent on to add a spark of creativity and unpredictability to Rovers, Ben Khemis did just that and helped tip the game in Rovers’ favour.

He grabbed his first league goal for the club in controversial circumstances which drew Rovers level.

Whipping in a dangerous ball to the back post, he caught Dean Henderson off-guard and despite the Shrewsbury keeper claiming the ball, momentum took him back over his goalline.

The assistant referee flagged immediately for a goal and Rovers were level.

Soon after, Ben Khemis was forced off with a bad injury after being caught with a late challenge. It left Rovers down to ten men for the last ten minutes, making their result against one of the division’s best teams all the more laudable.

But had Ben Khemis stayed on the pitch, it could have been even better, such was his impact.

SET PIECE FRAILTY

After stringing three clean sheets together over Christmas period, Rovers now find themselves suffering a very particular and costly defensive vulnerability.

Again on Saturday, they found themselves shipping goals from set pieces.

Ian Lawlor failed to connect adequately enough with an attempt to punch from a corner and the ball dropped to Sadler who hooked in.

Rovers had been handed a warning when Nsiala powered a header on goal from a corner with Lawlor required to produce a stunning one-handed save on his goalline to keep them out.

But they did not heed the warning, as moments later Nsiala rose to nod down for Morris to slam in from close range.

Two set piece goals and two coming from second balls.

Five set piece goals conceded in the last four matches.

This is a problem that must be addressed.