Doncaster Rovers v Luton: Andy Butler certain promotion challenge is on the cards

THROUGHOUT his career, Andy Butler has rubbed shoulders in the dressing room with a host of strong-willed team-mates whose abhorrence of poor standards and desire to win has been strikingly self-evident.

Andy Butler: Certain Doncaster can challenge.
Andy Butler: Certain Doncaster can challenge.

Ironically, the Doncaster Rovers centre-back is now playing under two of them in Rovers manager Grant McCann and assistant Cliff Byrne and given Tuesday’s disappointing Checkatrade Trophy home loss to Newcastle United, Butler instantly knew that the pair would have been deeply dissatisfied with developments.

In fairness, everyone in a self-policing dressing room where constructive criticism is part of the territory were also similarly dismayed at events following a 3-1 loss. It did not need senior man Butler to reinforce the messages of the management.

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Butler said: “People think football is nicey-nicey now. But after the game on Tuesday, we all said a few harsh words and it was not good enough; we knew that.

“Everyone wants to strive to be the best. If it means pushing them (team-mates) in the right way – and not being personal – everyone can accept it.

“You cannot accept losing 3-1 at home to Newcastle (Under-21s) and we will not do and we will put it right on Saturday.”

A senior dressing-room figure at several of his previous clubs, Butler – who is taking his A Licence and is starting out on the coaching ladder – admits he has learned plenty from the likes of McCann and Byrne.

Equally, he says that he is never too old to learn a lesson or two from his younger team-mates, if needs be,

On his footballing education, Butler, who turns 35 in November, said: “I played with Grant and Cliff at Scunthorpe. Andy Crosby, who is Nigel Adkins’s number two (at Hull) was also playing with me and I was 18 and he was 32 and he was also an influence. I also learned from Russ Wilcox and you take bits and bobs from every player you have been with.

“To be honest, in the last few squads I have been with, barring Sheffield United, I have been one of the older heads, even at 29 at Walsall. I think we had six players signed on who were just youths.

“I have probably had that role for the last six years, if I am totally honest. From my coaching experiences, I also see things in a different light and do help the youngsters out.

“In turn, they help me out, too. Joe Wright is only 23 and I feel like I learn off him. I know I am not the complete player.”

Rovers players and management may have been tough in their appraisal of Tuesday’s events, but the bigger picture points to an encouraging start to the League One season which has yielded nine points and no league concessions so far at Keepmoat this term.

Given that Doncaster have successfully traded punches with two of the early pacesetters in Peterborough United and Portsmouth – and arguably had the better of it – Butler believes that Rovers are doing plenty of things right at league level, albeit with a need to be more clinical.

That has certainly been apparent in the club’s last three league games, which have all ended in draws, two of which have been played out at the Keepmoat Stadium, where Rovers are now without a win in four matches in all competitions.

All told, incorporating home games at the tailend of last season, Rovers supporters have seen their side win on just one occasion at the Keepmoat in the club’s last 10 outings.

That said, Doncaster-born Butler is adamant that the glass remains half-full. He added: “We are in good form in the league and have not conceded at home yet and are looking forward to Saturday.

“It will be nice to get out there and right the wrongs of Tuesday night as we know it was not acceptable as a team.

“But we are not far away and just need to work on a few bits and bobs in training and we will be fine.

“We said after the Portsmouth and Peterborough games that if this is the standard at the top of the league, we are not far away from that.

“No disrespect to those two, but we feel we can do as well as them, if not better.

“If we converted our chances as a whole team, we would have come in with six points as opposed to two in the last two games.”

Danny Andrew, Ben Whiteman and Joe Wright all return this afternoon.

Last six games: LDDLDL; Luton LLWWDW.

Referee: T Nield (West Yorkshire)

Last time: Doncaster 1 Luton 1, February 18, 2017; League Two.