Scunthorpe United 1 Doncaster Rovers 1: Comfort kills as vital three points are let slip by pure carelessness – match analysis
If there is one thing that could derail Doncaster Rovers’ superb push for promotion, then complacency it is.
Such a fact was laid bare in a thoroughly frustrating and disappointing derby draw with neighbours Scunthorpe United.
Dominant and comfortable without being ultra threatening, they were in a position of real command by half time despite only leading through Mallik Wilks’ 25th minute strike.
But comfort gave way to needlessly slack and sloppy play after the break that not only allowed Scunthorpe into the game but let them attack in precisely the manner they were most keen to do.
It brought a 69th minute equaliser through the dangerous Kyle Wootton and it could have brought even worse.
Chalk and cheese performances, when they come with the positive first, are never easy to stomach.
Rovers potentially had another vital three points for the promotion race in their grasp but let them slip themselves rather than having them wrestled away.
LITTLE TOO COMFORTABLE
There was more than a little inference after the game from both Grant McCann and James Coppinger that they felt Rovers thought they had the game won at half time.
To an extent, they did. As long as they carried on doing what they were doing in the first half.
While lacking the defence-splitting devastation of other performances this season, Rovers were undoubtedly in control as they dominated midfield play and continually pushed an increasingly erratic Scunthorpe side onto the back foot.
Wilks was so often the outlet, up against Harrison McGahey whom he gave nightmares to when he visited the Keepmoat with previous club Rochdale in January.
While he struggled to run at the recycled full back in similar fashion on this occasion, he twisted, turned and powered away from McGahey to cut inside and cause plenty of problems.
For his goal, he drifted inside to collect a crossfield pass and clip a scruffy effort into the bottom corner. While the finish was not so emphatic, the pattern was similar to so many of Wilks’ goals – left foot, bottom corner, near post.
Scunthorpe arguably had the better chances in the first half with Wootton twice foreshadowing what was to come with backpost headers – first a diving effort straight at Marko Marosi and the second a looping one which forced the Rovers keeper to palm away well from under his bar.
But Rovers were so comfortable that the threat level felt minimal. That would change.
The game could have been put to bed early in the second half.
Herbie Kane saw a tame effort deflect wide from a good position before a truly horrendous miss from John Marquis.
Wilks lashed a shot off the post, Kane kept the ball in and poked a pass to Marquis who somehow sent the ball over the bar from four yards out.
Perhaps this early flurry lured Rovers into an even greater sense of security.
Passing in and out of midfield grew careless and sloppy with a degree of nonchalance not aiding the cause against a Scunthorpe side who grew more encouraged by each mistake.
There was a sense of the wrong sort of arrogance McCann has spoken of in the past, where confidence becomes dangerous over confidence.
To their credit, Scunthorpe took advantage.
After enjoying their best spell of the game they found the equaliser when McMahon raked a diagonal ball to the back post where Wootton took advantage of hesitation from Marosi and got the jump on Matty Blair to power a header home.
Most frustrating was that Rovers had been warned what to expect. A member of the backroom staff revealed afterwards McCann told his players at half time to be wary of the diagonal ball towards Wootton.
With McMahon afforded acres of space on the right, the warning was not heeded.
Rovers struggled to shake themselves out of their malaise and it was the hosts who looked the more likely to go on and win it.
There did come a late moment of threat for Rovers however that typified the second half performance.
Substitute Tyler Smith forced a mistake from keeper Jak Alnwick, who sliced a clearance backwards. But the young striker allowed the ball to roll behind for a corner rather than look up and spot Marquis on his own in the box with an empty net ahead of him.
The focus was just not quite right.
NOT AFTER LORD MAYOR’S SHOW
There could have been fears about Rovers’ performance levels following a high profile clash with Crystal Palace that sapped both energy and attention levels.
McCann admitted he had stopped a training session early in the week after feeling his players were not quite at it.
But the first half performance dismissed any fears that it was a case of after the Lord Mayor’s show.
The second half performance did suggest however there could be a case of believing the hype from one or two in the camp.
Anyone with anything like that mindset was dealt a sharp lesson in focus that they should hopefully heed heading into Tuesday’s clash with Shrewsbury Town.
Complacency is not something Rovers can afford to possess.