Match Verdict: Fleetwood Town 3 Doncaster Rovers 1 - Rollercoaster rumbles on for Paul Dickov’s men

Paul Keegan in action against Fleetwood Town
Paul Keegan in action against Fleetwood Town
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Consistency is one of the main factors which can make or break a season.

And right now, inconsistency is threatening to break any hope Rovers had of a promotion push this term.

Harry Forrester battles with Nathan Pond

Harry Forrester battles with Nathan Pond

Saturday’s trip to the Fylde Coast provided the reminder that there is rarely any margin for error for this Rovers side.

This season looks set to be a rollercoaster ride Fleetwood’s neighbours Blackpool would be proud of.

Play well and Rovers are a match for anyone in League One. Fail to perform and in all likelihood they will come away with nothing, even against a side struggling for consistency themselves.

Fleetwood impressed at Highbury on Saturday. But the truth is, they did not have to produce anything special to see off a Rovers side on another off-day.

Paul Dickov gives out instructions

Paul Dickov gives out instructions

Goals from Stephen Dobbie, Liam McAlinden and David Ball handed the hosts victory, with an excellent strike from Nathan Tyson scant consolation for Rovers.

So Fleetwood away is consigned to the dump pile along with Oldham, Walsall, Port Vale and Bristol City.

In attacking terms, fluidity was lacking for much of the afternoon.

The passing game Paul Dickov has promoted through the central triangle of De Val, Wellens and Keegan was virtually non-existent.

Instead, passes were long into lone striker Nathan Tyson. When Tyson has been at his most effective this term, it is in chasing down balls into the channels. On Saturday afternoon he received far too many long balls directly into him, ensuring his threat was nullified by a grateful and largely comfortable Fleetwood defence.

If attacking was disappointing, defending was woeful.

Rovers were hurt time and again by balls into the channels, pushing them onto the back foot, panicking the defence.

All three Fleetwood goals came from their right side, all with low crosses into the box and all with finishes from inside eight yards.Crosses were not stopped, men insufficiently marked.

It was all too easy for the Cod Army to march.

Cedric Evina will take plenty of stick that the goals were created from his defensive area.

And poor positioning, sluggishness in closing down and an afternoon of torment mean he will deserve some of the criticism.

But the left back should not be the scapegoat for the defeat or the goals conceded.

Harry Forrester offered little cover throughout and carelessly lost possession in his own half which sparked Fleetwood’s attack for the opener.

And marking inside the box once crosses came in was painfully poor for which a number of players should take criticism.

A flaw appeared in the 4-1-4-1 system that looked so strong against Burton Albion in the JP Trophy prior to the international break.

A high work rate from Fleetwood ensured their diamond formation denied Rovers space to pick out their passes in relative comfort, something which had been afforded to them at Burton.

In the system, Paul Keegan’s best attributes were wasted. Asked to play as part of the four, rather than sit and protect the back four, Keegan struggled to have any real influence on the game.

A more dynamic midfielder is required for the position - a rested Dean Furman being the prime candidate - while Keegan ultimately may be more suited for the protection role currently occupied by Marc De Val.

There was a feeling it was not going to be Rovers’ day early on as Fleetwood made the brighter start.

Frustration grew for the visitors from the off as possession was cheaply conceded in midfield, sparking the desire to get the ball up to Tyson quickly.

For all the defensive inadequacies, there was an element of fortune to Fleetwood’s 12th minute opener.

Forrester was robbed of the ball, McAlinden flicked on the cross which ricocheted back off Luke McCullough and landed at the feet of Dobbie who lashed high into the goal from six yards out.

Rovers were shell-shocked but hit back against the run of play just four minutes later with a special strike from Tyson.

He received the ball with back to goal on the edge of the box, turned and shot in one swift movement, hooking the ball into the corner with Fleetwood keeper Chris Maxwell left static.

Rovers enjoyed their best spell after the equaliser and started to string together some decent attacks.

Richie Wellens really should have put them in front but sent a first time strike from a James Coppinger cut back straight at Maxwell.

But the good work was undone on 37 minutes when McAlinden scored the most simple of tap-ins to put the hosts back ahead.

The forward was barely tracked as he darted into the box to meet Ball’s low cross, allowing him to turn home from four yards.

No Rovers player was on hand to net Forrester’s flashed cross across the face of goal while Jamie McCombe powered wide from a Coppinger pass as Rovers threatened on the stroke of half time.

The early stages of the second half were poor from both sides but Fleetwood settled the better.

Dobbie had a chance to extend their advantage but looked to place his shot from McAlinden’s pass and made for a simple save for Steer.

The Rovers keeper made a series of saves to keep his side in it and was probably the only player to come away with a decent performance.

He pawed away a decent strike from Ball, kept Dobbie out from distance and produced a brilliant reaction stop with his legs to deny the same player from close range.

Steer’s opposite number Maxwell also played his part, palming out a stinging first time strike from Coppinger.

And that allowed his side to put one hand on the three points with 17 minutes to go.

McAlinden sent in a low ball, again from the right, with Ball finding the space for a stunning backheel flick that left Steer standing as the ball nestled in the bottom corner.

Maxwell kept out a fine free kick from substitute Kyle Bennett, who must be wondering what he has to do to get back into the starting XI.

If there was a positive to take from the afternoon it was the return to action of Curtis Main, who got half an hour of action as Rovers chased the game. An instant hero’s return was not to be as he had very little influence on the game. But, rightly or wrongly, he will become a beacon of hope that there can be a more consistent upturn in fortunes in the weeks to come.

Finding the means for consistency is the million dollar question facing Dickov and co.

Fleetwood: Maxwell 8, McLaughlin 7, Pond 6, Jordan 6, Crainey 6, Schumacher 6 (Southern 77), Evans 6, Morris 6, Dobbie (Hughes 88) 8, Ball 7, McAlinden 7 (Proctor 84).

Subs not used: Davies, Roberts, Sarcevic, Haughton

Rovers: Steer 8, Wabara 7, McCullough 6, McCombe 6 (Robinson 83), Evina 5, De Val 5 (Bennett 61 6), Coppinger 6, Keegan 5, Wellens 6, Forrester 5 (Main 61 6), Tyson 6.

Subs: Marosi, Lund, Wakefield, Furman.

Referee: Steve Martin

Att: 3,785