Doncaster Rovers: Grant McCann happy with switch in set piece defending method

Grant McCann
Grant McCann

Doncaster Rovers boss Grant McCann admits he felt more comfortable watching his side defend set pieces after altering their methods for the weekend win over AFC Wimbledon.

Set pieces became Rovers’ Achilles heel in recent weeks, forcing McCann into a change of approach in a bid to halt the vulnerability.

Saturday’s win saw the move from man-marking to a hybrid method, involving some element of zonal marking, and Rovers – who host Chorley in their FA Cup first round replay on Tuesday – had very few nervy moments from set piece deliveries.

“I felt more comfortable,” McCann said.

“Even against Notts County in the Checkatrade earlier in the week I was turning to Cliff [Byrne, assistant] and saying ‘this could be a goal here for them.

“That’s how much I was stressing about set plays.

“The boys stuck to it. We worked hard on it and I thought we looked strong.

“We're zonal and picking up, we're half and half.

“We used players to block running onto the six yard line and it worked.

“Ian Lawlor was on the front foot, punching things away and I thought he was brave with it.

“But it doesn't matter whether you're man marking or zonal, you've got to head the ball and we did that.”

McCann paid tribute to goalkeeping coach Paul Gerrard and assistant boss Cliff Byrne for guiding the players through the new methods.

Gerrard has been consistently involved in the composition of defending from set plays during his five years with Rovers.

“Credit to Paul Gerrard - he did something like this with the team last year and he took on the mantle again,” McCann said.

“As a manager of the football club, I trust my staff. You have to have that collabrative approach.

“Gez and Cliff have worked on the set plays very hard and I give a lot of credit to those two.

“I thought we looked very comfortable at the weekend.

“We were strong coming to head things.

“It doesn't matter what way you defend a set play, if you don't come and head the ball you're going to concede.

“The boys went and delivered that on Saturday, whether it was a corner, free kick or long throw.

“We were strong defensively, we cleared our lines and a couple of times we looked dangerous on the counter.”