There were some familiar themes and also a few encouraging different ones as Doncaster Rovers secured a no-thrills win at Tadcaster Albion in their second friendly outing.
Second half goals from free agent Gary McSheffrey, who is unlikely to remain at the club beyond pre-season, and Liam Mandeville earned Rovers victory at the i2i Stadium against an energetic and determined Albion outfit.
Against better quality opposition, Darren Ferguson’s side failed to re-produce the sort of attacking play that cut Armthorpe Welfare to ribbons last Tuesday.
While restricting the hosts to only a few half chances, Rovers kept the ball very well at times but were unable to fashion anywhere near the volume of chances they created at Church Street.
However, two different teams for each half - which included young centre back Charlie Jemson and midfield duo Issam Ben Khemis and Reise Allassani on trial - produced some significant plus-points as well as a few early clues as to how Rovers will line-up when the new League One season starts on August 5.
With Mathieu Baudry and Luke McCullough both facing lengthy spells on the sidelines, Andy Butler’s value to Rovers as a commanding centre back has multiplied overnight.
The club captain was at his dominating best on Saturday, winning absolutely everything in the air and outmuscling Tadcaster’s forward line at almost every opportunity.
Butler has returned to pre-season training in great shape and his value to the team in terms of his physical presence and leadership should not be underestimated. Given the club’s current shortage of centre backs, Ferguson would be forgiven for wrapping the 33-year-old in cotton wool ahead of the big kick off.
In front of Butler, Niall Mason is in pole position to start the season in the midfield holding role and he did his case ho harm here, breaking up play on several occasions and using the ball sensibly and carefully.
New left back Danny Andrew looks like a very shrewd addition. He was very comfortable on the ball again, gave a glimpse of his set piece skills and, most importantly, showed a willingness to get forward. Too often last season there was on over-reliance on Matty Blair to provide the width on the right with little coming down the left, but that will change with this lad in the side.
While Jemson was not really tested defensively and his distribution occasionally let him down, Ben Khemis impressed Ferguson with his energy and link up play in the middle. Some nimble footwork from Allassani also earned the penalty that Mandeville tucked away midway through the second half. The trio could well be joined by more new faces when Derby County visit the Keepmoat Stadium tomorrow.
Ben Whiteman also gave an indication of his versatility in the second period when the on-loan Sheffield United midfielder slotted into the holding role and showcased a good range of passing. However, you can’t help but feel the youngster, who clearly has an eye for goal and ability to go box-to-box, would be wasted in a more defensive position.
For the second game in succession, James Coppinger started at the tip of midfield diamond and looks a shoo-in to be there when Rovers face Gillingham, although the 36-year-old was not as effective as he was against Armthorpe.
Rovers began the game well and their quick, incisive passing caused problems for the hosts.
However, after John Marquis and Andy Williams had both wasted decent openings, Rovers lost that early impetus and the half rather petered out, with Tom Corner heading just wide for Albion on the stroke of half time.
Mandeville wasted a gilt-edged chance just after the re-start when he was denied by Michael Ingham from point blank range, while at the other end Marko Marosi was at full length to tip wide Josh Greening’s curler.
The deadlock was broken just before the hour mark when Tyler Walker picked out McSheffrey with a good cross from the right and 34-year-old made no mistake with an excellent finish on the volley.
Mandeville later sent Ingham the wrong way from the spot but there was to be no repeat of the Armthorpe rout as Taddy kept a good defensive shape.