Forward thinking is key for Doncaster Rovers' boss McCann

ANALYSIS of Doncaster Rovers' League One goals for column last season made for disconcerting reading.

Doncaster Rovers manager, Grant McCann. Picture: Marie Caley

As you would expect from any manager worth his salt it is something that has not been lost upon the new man at the helm in Grant McCann.

Rovers’ haul of 52 goals was modest and said everything about a side who finished in mid-table. But the far more alarming statistic centred on the fact that, behind 14-goal top-scorer John Marquis, the next highest scorer struck just six times in the league.

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It will have made for an incongruous sight for McCann, someone whose last club Peterborough United have been blessed with a happy knack of scoring goals for a good few years during their time in the lower divisions.

It is plainly something he is intent on rectifying with much of his pre-season work so far at Rovers’ Cantley Park training ground focusing on sharpening up Rovers in the attacking third.

One thing that McCann is confident about is that he has the tools at his disposal even if in an ideal world another striker would boost his options.

Plans to bring in Bristol City striker Shawn McCoulsky on loan have been temporarily put on hold following the news that the 21-year-old was diagnosed with a heart condition called pericarditis while on loan at Newport County last season.

His signing is something Rovers may revisit before the end of the summer loan window.

McCann, appointed as Rovers manager just over three weeks ago, told The Yorkshire Post: “I think if you saw my teams in my 18 months at Peterborough they were always fluent and wanted to go and score goals.

“I want to create that ruthless edge here where after we score and finish one we want to score again.

“The stuff we do on the training ground is about end product and making sure we score and get the ruthless edge to score again.

“We know it is not easy, but it is about trying to make sure the boys understand we want to do that and that teams are fearful of coming to the Keepmoat and fearful when we go to their place.

“Doing a bit of work with the analyst Adam (Ridgewell) he has been telling me about the way the team broke last year and only eight per cent of them came with a shot.

“We know we need to work on that as we have people in the team who can score goals like Marquis, (Tommy) Rowe and Alfie May, who has come back looking really sharp in pre-season.

“Ali Crawford is going to add goals and Malik Wilks and Alfie Beestin too.

“We have got to work on the transitions to our game and making sure we are punishing teams or at least getting shots off at goal, so we have got a chance of scoring.

“We are working hard on that with our full-backs, midfield and front players.”

McCann added: “I have seen a rise in intensity in the training sessions which we are delivering and the boys are starting to understand my way of working.

“It is a good group with a good changing room who want to do well and work hard every day.

“When you have that it is about adding that bit of quality which is going to win you games, which is what we are trying to do.”

Yet to concede a goal in three matches in pre-season, it is Rovers’ defensive aptitude that has been receiving early pass marks from McCann, whose side will step up things in a friendly against Championship side Birmingham City at Solihull Moors this evening.

Early days it may be, but the Northern Irishman claims to have spied plenty of evidence to suggest that the defensive options at his disposal are more than capable of producing the consistency required to have a successful season in that regard in 2018-19.

His faith is likely to be reinforced by the sight of fit-again Luke McCullough in the club’s ranks, alongside the likes of Joe Wright, Andy Butler and Tom Anderson.

“One thing I have noticed here is the desire and commitment from the back four, whoever it may be,” McCann said.

“The goalkeeper has to keep clean sheets as well and we know that the teams who end up getting promoted from this league do not concede many more than 45 or 46 goals.

“The boys understand that and even in the three pre-season games we have had to date we have not conceded.

“They know they have got a ruthless edge and want to try and keep the ball out of their net. That gives you a great platform to go and win the game.

“It is the first pre-season for Luke (McCullough) for three years and he is going to be like a new signing for us.

“We have proper men at the back in ‘Buts’, Anderson, Wright, McCullough, Danny Andrew and Danny Amos and the two goalkeepers.

“They all want to contribute, but it starts from whoever plays up front and a sure press to go and win the ball back as early as we can.”