Familiarity breeds contempt – and the same old story is stoking nothing but frustration regarding Doncaster Rovers.
Yet again we are left to discuss a catalogue of familiar failings that ensured another disappointing defeat which continues the slide away from the impressive start to the season.
Failing to make a bright start count, conceding eminently preventable goals, a worrying fragility.
Rovers fell to a third consecutive defeat – a fifth in seven league matches – as they folded in a 15 minute spell during the first half of their trip to Charlton Athletic.
Winning was all too easy for a Charlton side that have struggled to do just that on a consistent basis so far this season. The Addicks did not have to be particularly good before or after taking the lead in order to get the better of Rovers.
The most worrying aspect of that is the ‘after’ part.
After falling behind, first to Joe Aribo’s close range finish and then to Karlan Grant’s header, Rovers looked a beaten side, despite having the best part of an hour to mount a comeback and sending on two fresh forwards at half time.
The failure to fight, to continue to craft, graft and attack with real purpose was something new. However great the odds against Rovers have grown in matches this season, they have ploughed on with a real determination to claw something back.
Grant McCann spoke afterwards of a lack of belief from his side. It was clear to see.
And, given the overall lack of form from his side, the new sight of Rovers surrendering to their fate so quickly was hardly a promising sign that the turning point is coming soon.
YET MORE DEFENSIVE WOE
Two goals conceded. Two soft, easily prevented goals, labelled by the manager as ‘unacceptable.’
First, the set piece Achilles heel struck again, 18 minutes in.
Tom Anderson – retaining his position due to Joe Wright’s injury – had produced a commanding header from a corner but unfortunately powered the ball onto his own bar rather than behind. And he was slow to react, allowing Aribo to latch onto the loose ball and finish with ease from close range.
The second goal was a horror show all round for Rovers.
Lyle Taylor was given all the space he needed to cut back onto his right foot and send a ball towards the back post from the left.
Andy Butler completely misjudged the flight of the ball, allowing Grant to drop away and line up a header which he sent on goal.
Marko Marosi stuck out a hand to repel the ball but there was little strength or conviction in his stop, and the ball nestled into the sidenetting. “He should have saved it,” said McCann.
It was not just in the goals that Rovers looked defensively weak. There was a vulnerability throughout.
Charlton consistently clipped balls over the top or into channels, specifically looking for Grant, who worked off the shoulder of an exposed Anderson and spun away quickly.
Anderson could not cope with Grant’s runs and it put Rovers on the back foot more often than not.
IMPORTANCE OF THE FIRST GOAL
Putting it plain and simple, scoring first is vital for Doncaster Rovers.
In the eight matches they have lost in all competitions so far this season, they conceded the first goal in seven of them.
And only twice have they fought back to take something from a game in which they initially fell behind – winning at Walsall and drawing with Gillingham.
In contrast, of their nine wins, Rovers scored first in eight of them. And in only two games have they dropped points after netting the first goal – losing to Blackpool in the Carabao Cup and drawing at Peterborough.
The importance of scoring first is alarming.
Saturday’s defeat was the first time Rovers’ heads have dropped so early in a game. Their determination was stronger after falling 4-0 down to Fleetwood Town a month prior.
But it is undeniable that they have an issue with fighting their way back into football matches.
A CUT ABOVE MOST
The one lighter moment from Saturday to forget was the sight of Alfie May, shorn of his trademark long locks.
In fact, it needed a double take to figure out who was warming up for Rovers in the first half.
He admitted he regretted his decision the last time he had his hair cut short so it will be interesting to see how he copes this time around.
But appears to have had no ill-effects on his powers. May was a bright spark after being thrown on at half time along with Mallik Wilks, with his willingness to run, chase and drive forward providing rare moments of fight for his side.
Here is hoping that Rovers as a whole have a fresh look about themselves sooner rather than later.