Darren Moore praises 'superb' Doncaster Rovers' improvement and downplays Ben Whiteman absence
The sides met at Ewood Park in the League Cup in August, when Doncaster were leading going into the closing stages. That was the case again in Saturday's FA Cup third round but whereas at the start of the campaign they lost 3-2, this time they held out for a 1-0 win.
That they did was even more creditable because they have not played since December 22 because of a Covid-19 outbreak which weakened the team again in Lancashire, and the training ground only reopened this week. Captain Ben Whiteman was also missing, although Moore insisted that was because of illness, not because his future lays elsewhere in the January transfer window.
Blackburn certainly made them work hard, having 68 per cent of possession and 20 attempts at goal, but Doncaster held firm in an excellent defensive performance to ensure Taylor Richards' opening goal was a winner.
“We're really pleased because of the time we had off and the time we had to work,” said manager Moore. “We had to reshuffle the pack so I was really pleased with the performance.
“It has been difficult because of the time off and the reason why we had that time off.
“We had individuals missing and it was difficult in that sense but we had to get on with it.
“I look at what they did and they were superb. They've rewarded themselves with the fourth round.”
Looking back to August's match, he reflected: “Back then I felt we ran out of gas but here we were able to sustain it. I didn't feel we lost much fitness, just a little bit of sharpness because there were times when we lost the ball and I felt we could haver made better decisions but our defending off the ball was excellent.”
Moore named a starting XI with four central defenders, two full-backs and not a single defensive midfielder. Whiteman was notable by his absence in the wake of interest from Championship clubs Preston North End and Queens Park Rangers but Moore insisted it was the after-effects of coronavirus, not a head turned by speculation, which kept the deep-lying playmaker at home.
“He was one of those who was suffering,” explained Moore. “We were working him on Friday and he ended up blowing up.
“I keep looking at the fixtures ahead.
“It was the same with Matt Smith and Jon Taylor (who also did not travel). They were big decisions for me to make because they're household names for us.
“He's our player., What's ahead of the road I can't stop but he's our player and we continue to see him get better. The interest, I understand it.
“I don't know what the price is so I just go with the facts – he's here and I've not heard anything with regards to him moving away.”
Doncaster return to their League One promotion bid at Swindon Town on Saturday.
“It's a special win for us but we move on and turn our attention to the league,” said Moore.
“There's a lot of games to come and we'll deal with it as best we can but there'll be a lot of teams in the same boat so we just hope for a good month and no more games called off for frozen pitches and that.”
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