The holes in Doncaster’s squad have been well and truly exposed and they will need to be carefully filled this summer if progress is to be made.
Rovers knew that to challenge for a top six spot their key men would have to stay clear of injury. But, as luck would have it, the absences of arguably three of their most influential players - Rob Jones, Dean Furman and then Paul Keegan - highlighted the all too obvious gaps in the squad.
In the case of Jones, Rovers’ gamble on his fitness backfired completely and it was only when Andy Butler arrived in October that the defence started to show any real sign of the organisation and doggedness required. Things may have been different had Butler and Peter Clarke joined in the summer, as had been planned prior to the takeover collapse.
Doncaster’s somewhat sorry end to the season has also spectacularly championed the job done by Keegan in a holding role where he not only provided a shield for the two centre backs but also a platform for an otherwise attack-minded midfield, giving the side some much-needed balance. To their cost Rovers have no one else in the squad capable of performing this role quite like Keegan, although Luke McCullough should perhaps have been tried in that position long before the play-off dream faded.
Likewise with Furman. When he departed for the Africa Cup of Nations, just as Rovers were gaining momentum, it left his club side woefully lacking in the sort of energy and drive that he was providing in the middle of the park.
The difference with Furman, whose excellence in a more advanced role was one of the finds of the season, was that Doncaster knew it was coming. They knew the Afcon was coming, but the reinforcement that arrived in the form of Abdul Razak turned into an unmitigated disaster from the moment the Greek FA got involved. Razak just wasn’t what was required.
Paul Dickov has already acknowledged that he would like a bigger squad next season but it also must be more balanced. It’s top heavy with luxury players at present, the likes of Razak, Richie Wellens, Kyle Bennett, James Coppinger and Harry Forrester. Thus, finding a way of playing and a shape that does not over-rely on certain individuals, and having a squad that provides ample cover in every position, will be critical to finding more consistency.