Doncaster Rovers 4-1 Crawley Town
Sky Bet League Two
Saturday 24th September 2022
There’s been a whole heap of needless negativity surrounding Doncaster Rovers over the past week so this emphatic win over Crawley Town - the biggest in Gary McSheffrey’s managerial reign to date - ought to silence a few critics.
Booed off after losing 1-0 to Swindon Town last week, there’s been plenty of squawking for McSheffrey to be sacked, despite the fact Rovers still went into this game in the top half of the table having played most of the teams above them so far (thus harder games) and having had several injuries.
It was ultimately a comfortable win and a switch to a 4-4-2 formation certainly worked wonders.
Rovers had more possession and territory during a first half in which they were mostly on top albeit without threatening the imposing Crawley ‘keeper, whereas the Sussex side were happy to soak up pressure, play long diagonal balls and attack the full-backs in their bid to get some points to hoist themselves away from the danger zone.
Level after 40 minutes, Joseph Olowu’s header put Rovers ahead (cue goal music by The Kungs) only for it to be very quickly wiped out two minutes later as James Tilley was allowed time and space to drill home an equaliser from the edge of the box.
The second half saw DRFC fully crank up the pressure and after a Crawley defender was correctly penalised for handball, George Miller bagged the first of his two goals with a well-placed spot-kick which was far enough into the corner to beat Corey Addai who dived the right way.
The decisive period which every game has then unfolded as Crawley missed a sitter to make it 2-2 only for Rovers to go down the other end and score in flukey fashion as Miller initially got in the way of Kieran Agard’s shot, yet in doing so he inadvertently flicked the ball through for himself to smash it home for 3-1.
And those unlucky moments always seem to go against you when you’re down at the bottom!
Kyle Hurst then underlined his quality with a goal that everyone will remember for years to come as he picked up the ball inside his own half and beat one, two and then three players - including Crawley’s No.5 who looked like a dead donkey as he was easily beaten for pace, before slotting home. Hurst was blowing himself afterwards as he ran towards his family and friends to celebrate but it was a good goal, a likely goal of the season winner, and everyone appreciated it. As a player that’s the kind of memories you want to create for people and it’s a far cry from the start of this year when he was playing non-league football for Alvechurch and probably quite worried about the direction of where his career might be going.
Right now, it’s certainly on the up!
Crawley’s directors looked very glum at the full-time whistle and they now languish in 22nd position in League Two - above only Rochdale and Hartlepool who, ironically, are Rovers’ next two opponents.
It’s still not a crisis because we’re only in September (and the Red Devils actually showed some decent intentions in this game so hope isn’t completely lost) but in the panic-ridden world of professional football, it wouldn’t surprise me whatsoever if their owners dispense with Kevin Betsy as boss in the next few weeks.
Nevertheless, McSheffrey’s critics (of which there’s quite a few if we’re being honest) will no doubt spout ‘Why can’t we play like this every week’ or ‘Why haven’t we played this formation previously?’ after this victory. They’re entitled to their opinion but, ultimately, inconsistency is half to be expected because you’re not always going to win when fixtures are predominantly against top half teams - and that’s not to mention the recent injuries..
You have to be able to ride the rough with the smooth in football and the honest time to judge both McSheffrey and Rovers’ chances of promotion this year is at the halfway point of the campaign. By then, people will have a fair idea of where things are going, games against ‘good’ and ‘bad’ teams will have balanced out and a clearer picture will be available.
The owners at DRFC have stated they want promotion this season but have also long-spouted their intention to be 'self-sufficient' - and as a result of that philosophy, actually achieving a Play-Off spot would, in actual fact, be over-achieving. Those fans who have the bizarre belief that Rovers have a divine right to beat anyone and everyone at this level probably don’t want to let that fact get in the way of their persistent moaning though.
On the whole, even if Rovers just ‘tread water’ and finish mid-table without any threat of relegation, it would represent a step in the right direction and consolidation after the traumatic shambles that unfolded last season.
Realism and perspective is needed - irrespective of whatever happens in the next two games where people will now thoroughly expect two wins.