Rovers respond when up against it – Horton

Doncaster assistant manager Brian Horton believes Rovers need to remain adaptable as they look to rediscover the strong form they showed at the start of the season.

Martin Woods at the end of the Doncaster Crewe match

Rovers have lost their last two games 3-0 and have subsequently plunged to just two places above the Championship’s relegation zone.

But heads have not dropped as they embark upon a festive period that sees them play three in-form teams in QPR, Ipswich, and today’s opponents Derby County.

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Manager Paul Dickov named a side to face Leeds United last week without a recognised winger and spearheaded by three strikers.

While that bold tactic did not yield a goal, experienced coach Horton believes Doncaster should not be inhibited by a regimented approach.

“It’s a bit of a vogue now to look at formations, but it’s not rocket science,” said Horton, the former Manchester City and Huddersfield Town boss.

“I’ve played in all systems, and coached all systems, but at the end of the day it’s 11 versus 11, it’s the nearest man to the ball.

“When we haven’t got possession it’s about the nearest man to the ball, simple as that. Watch Barcelona, it’s only how they do it.”

Rovers visit a Derby side in fine form, having won six straight games at Pride Park under Steve McClaren.

On paper, the struggling South Yorkshire side are ripe for the taking, but as Horton points out, they have arguably played better this season when the odds are stacked against them.

“We tend to play better against the so-called better teams,” he said.

“It was still a good performance against Leeds. It looks like you’ve had a good hiding when you’ve lost 3-0 at home, but that wasn’t what it was at all.

“At our best we’re capable of beating anybody, as we’ve proven against QPR, Leicester etc.”

Horton knows former England boss McClaren well and applauded the job he has done so far to revive the Rams’s fortunes.

“I had Steve twice as a player and started his coaching career off at Oxford,” said Horton. “I also had Paul Simpson when he was a player at Oxford, so I know their coaching staff well.

“All credit to Steve, he’s got them going. He’s tweaked a few things but they’ve got a good side and we’ve got to go and match them.

“He’s admitted they’re having the breaks and when you’re getting them you take them.

“We’ve got to put that to the back of our minds and defend better, set-pieces etc.

“We appreciate we really need to tighten up at the back.

“As well as that, we don’t score enough goals.

“Federico Macheda needs a goal, so does Chris Brown, so does Theo Robinson.

“You need a Ross McCormack (Leeds’s top scoer) to go and do something out of nothing, but there are other ways to score goals from set-pieces and so forth.”