Doncaster Rovers: Systemic approach to dealing with Ben Whiteman’s absence

How do you solve a problem like Ben Whiteman’s absence for Doncaster Rovers?

Ben Whiteman
Ben Whiteman

Well, the answer may partly come in the form of two players.

Damaged ankle ligaments will keep Whiteman out of action for at least another week, and with Herbie Kane also sidelined due to a groin tear, Rovers have been left without a recognised senior sitting midfielder.

After the midfield missing Whiteman and Kane was dominated at Luton Town, Grant McCann elected for a switch of system from his favoured 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 for Tuesday’s clash with Bristol Rovers.

A 4-1 mauling and a first win in seven matches later, it seemed as though the Rovers boss had found the solution – one that will almost certainly be deployed when they host Walsall on Saturday.

It would of course be far to simple to suggest it was Tommy Rowe and Ali Crawford combined which helped them through Whiteman’s absence.

Both provided a solid base from which Rovers attacked and the duo were more influential in starting attacks than breaking any up from the opposition.

And McCann himself says there was plenty of work put in to make sure the two-man midfield was ready for the task at hand.

“We put a lot of work into it on the Sunday and Monday after the Luton game,” McCann said.

“Particularly so in the Tommy Rowe and Ali Crawford positions.

“The two of them are attack-minded midfielders really.

“They had to be really disciplined, stay on the ball and start attacks for us.

“Them doing that allowed Kieran Sadlier, Mallik Wilks, James Coppinger and John Marquis more space and more time.

“There was more space for our full backs to join in as you saw with the first goal and Danny Andrew’s position.

“It worked well for us.”

The system is nothing new for the Rovers squad, who have been drilled in its merits as a tweak of the 4-3-3 system McCann has mainly implemented throughout the campaign.

“We’ve played it a few times this season,” he said.

“We played against Oldham and Chorley in the FA Cup. The Chorley game, we got seven goals and looked a lot more attacking with it.

“It allows people to get into positions they like and our full backs to be more aggressive.

“We have played it and moved into it a few times this season and I thought it worked well.”