Doncaster Rovers will stick to their principles says Darren Moore
The South Yorkshiremen’s tactic of taking short goal-kicks and trying to play out from the back seemed to invite Sunderland pressure during the first half of Saturday’s encounter at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Rovers dropped deeper and deeper as the opening period progressed, the Black Cats countering their hosts’ attempts to build from inside their own area, winning the ball high up the field and putting the home defence under the pump.
Given the way that the contest was progressing, it came as no surprise to anybody inside the ground when the Wearsiders took the lead shortly before half-time through Grant Leadbitter’s stunning long-range strike.
The interval could not come soon enough for Doncaster, allowing Moore to tweak his system ahead of the second half.
But Rovers continued to play out through debutant goalkeeper Joe Lumley after the break and produced a much-improved showing without ever really looking too likely to muster an equaliser.
One would, however, materialise in stoppage-time, Fejiri Okenabirhie converting Brad Halliday’s low cross from the right to secure an outcome which Moore feels justified the decision not to alter his game-plan.
“We have to (pass out from the back) it’s in our DNA, it is what we do, it’s what we are about,” he said.
“We were persistent with it and got some joy with it. It was one of the small details we spoke about (at half-time), our control and touch on the ball, but I was happy with it.
“We haven’t got the players to go long and shell it and play the ball in the air. We do try and mix it up, but relatively our team tries to play football how we feel is the right way.”
Another challenge which Doncaster had to contend with was Sunderland’s very obvious and extremely effective tactic of shutting midfield lynchpin Ben Whiteman out of the game.
Visiting striker Charlie Wyke continuously dropped off to close down the Rovers captain, something which Moore says both his player and his team should be flattered by.
“It is like a back-handed compliment,” he added.
“That’s the way I look at it, simple as that. The man-marking, and the player who they detailed to man-mark him, they’ve changed their shape for us today.
“Look who did the job on him, the boy Wyke, their number nine. There was an incident in the second half where he was tackling Ben outside their 18-yard-box, it was bizarre really.
“I said to Ben, ‘we can’t get frustrated because we’ve got to look at it as a compliment’. But, we can’t accept it, we’ve got to get better. It’s something that we’ve got to deal with.
“It’s different measures that the team was faced with today, and that we can learn from. It’s all a learning thing for us in terms of getting better.”
Saturday saw Moore return to the helm following a spell in self-isolation, and although he said he was happy to return, he revealed a frustration that he had missed out on an opportunity to get through some extensive work on the training ground during the recent international break.
“I’m gutted I wasn’t here to work on team principles and dynamics,” said the Rovers chief.
“When you have international breaks, the amount of work you can get through and the session-plans you can get through is phenomenal.
“So I’m gutted I didn’t have that because I feel like I’ve missed out on 10 to 12 days to work on team principles.”
Doncaster Rovers: Lumley; Halliday, Wright, Anderson, John; Whiteman, James (Coppinger 83); Lokilo (Richards 63), Smith, Sims; Okenabirhie. Unused substitutes: Jones, Amos, Williams, Butler, Ravenhill.
Sunderland: Matthews; McLaughlin, Wright, Flanagan; O’Nien, Scowen, Leadbitter, Hume; Maguire (Embleton 82), Wyke, Gooch (Power 90). Unused substitutes: Budge, Sanderson, Graham, Diamond, Grigg.
Referee: J Busby (Oxfordshire).
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