Rovers need an aerial option in bid for lift-off from drop zone

Amid all the lauding of Ian Harte’s performance in the wake of Doncaster Rovers’ 1-1 draw with Reading, Dean Saunders saw a blueprint for the future.

The Rovers manager accepts that a dead-ball specialist of the quality of the Reading left-back is a rare breed.

But it was the aerial threat presented by those on the end of Harte’s set-pieces that made Saunders sit up and take note.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Tuesday night’s draw stretched Doncaster’s unbeaten run to five games and sustained their belief they can avoid relegation from the Championship.

But whatever the outcome of their survival fight, Saunders knows he needs to add an aerial element to his side’s present attacking potency.

“Look at our team now,” he said. “You’ve got to stop (Fredric) Piquionne and (El-Hadji) Diouf. Then you’ve got to worry about (Kyle) Bennett and (James) Coppinger.

“Plus our two midfield players are on form with Giles Barnes bursting forward and Simon Gillett getting in the box at West Ham to get us a point.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The difference between us and them is they’ve got defenders who come up and head set-plays in when that’s not working.

“That’s what we’ve got to get to.

“It’s not a coincidence. Cardiff have got two centre-backs who head everything in both boxes. Reading have two there.

“We played West Ham on Saturday, they’ve got two in (James) Tomkins and (Abdoulaye) Faye who head it out at one end and in at the other end.

“Southampton have as well. They all have a bit of everything and that’s where we need to get to.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Reading could have won the game on set plays against us. If the football’s not working you can always turn to that. Other than that we’ve matched them and everyone should take confidence from that.

“They’d won eight games on the trot and we’ve stopped them. Nobody else could stop them.

“We’re five unbeaten now. It’s a point nearer safety, we’ve got two home games coming up and we’re hard to play against now.

“That’s another top team we’ve sunk. That’s two we’ve done in three days. They all think they’re going to beat little old Doncaster, but we’re doing well.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“By playing Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, we can get out of trouble if we win three games on the trot.”

Rovers would have claimed the notable scalp of promotion-chasing Reading on Tuesday night were it not for the virtuoso performance from Harte.

The 34-year-old former Leeds, Levante and Republic of Ireland defender set up the equaliser for Alex Pearce, and but for profligacy in front of goal from his team-mates, could have created a hatful in the first 20 minutes as Doncaster’s defence were left floundering.

“The difference in the end was Ian Harte,” continued Saunders, who had diminutive Sam Hird and the positionally-challenged Habib Beye in the centre of his defence. “His delivery was the best I’ve ever seen for consistency.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Diouf was in the hole at the near post and he stands in there for the one that doesn’t quite reach and Harte must have missed him out 10 times.

“Giles Barnes normally stands in the middle of the goal six yards out and he missed him out every time as well, it was just dipping six inches over his head to the back post. We were having all sorts of problems. We missed Shelton Martis; he is a big player in there who normally gets his head on things.

“But that’s the first I think we’ve conceded from a corner.

“Every time they got a corner, everyone in the stadium drew breath.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“When Harte’s deliveries go in like that, it causes the ‘keeper a problem. They looked like scoring every time they got a corner.

“We got away with three or four in the first half before eventually they scored from one.

“They’ve put a lot of good balls into the box. I wouldn’t mind playing up front for them, even now. Jason Roberts is still getting goals. I’d still be getting goals now with that sort of supply.”

Martis remains a doubt for Saturday’s visit of Derby County with Saunders mindful not to rush him back too quickly as they seek to overhaul fourth-bottom Bristol City, who are three points ahead, having played a game more.

Related topics: