Notts County v Doncaster Rovers: Players have making up to do after night of anger and apathy

It was not a very merry Christmas at Cantley Park. Nothing spoils the mood like back-to-back stinkers.

After Doncaster Rovers' 3-1 home defeat to Bradford City, Grant McCann spoke of the Boxing Day trip to Notts County as a shot at redemption but it feels like it will take a lot more than that to shift the malaise gripping his club since early 2021.

Losing 5-0 at home to Morecambe six days earlier demanded a response and Joe Ironside provided it, chasing down and tackling Harry Lewis before curling in a well-judged finish from a tight angle to give his side an eighth-minute lead.

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But this is a club built on sand and as soon as Andy Cook got into his stride, scoring the first of his two goals – he made the other – to equalise, all pretence of confidence evaporated.

Apathy can be as dangerous as anger at a football club.

Once you took away 2,845 noisy away fans, the official 8,645 attendance seemed... imaginative, even if manager McCann's assertion that "There were probably 100 people in the (home sections of the) stadium at the end," was on the creative side too.

"I said to Joe Ironisde 'This is what we're producing at the minute,'" he continued. "Fans are just disappearing. We're not giving them enough. Nowhere near enough."

Even the local newspaper is not turning up at the moment.

ANGER: Doncaster Rovers manager Grant McCannANGER: Doncaster Rovers manager Grant McCann
ANGER: Doncaster Rovers manager Grant McCann

Since ripping up the squad in the summer to address a side from the top end of League One to the bottom end of League Two, McCann has been beset by injuries but it was no excuse.

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"What's taken me by surprise is the lack of energy and aggression in the group," he said. "In the last couple of games I've seen them accepting losing the duel, accepting running off us.

"It's hard to accept.

"I'm not saying this group don't buy into what we're doing but at the minute it is nowhere near enough for the standards we expect. I don't see enough energy about us, enough pace, enough aggression.

RALLYING CRY: Doncaster Rovers right-back Jamie SterryRALLYING CRY: Doncaster Rovers right-back Jamie Sterry
RALLYING CRY: Doncaster Rovers right-back Jamie Sterry

"It's going to take a while to get this club going again and when I say going again, rocking.

"I have no doubt we'll be a success at this football club but it might take a bit of time. We haven't given up on this season yet – we want to be really competitive in the second half of the season."

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Fortunately Notts County are no great shakes either, losing five out of six since almost contriving to throw away a 4-0 half-time lead against Bradford in November.

"Every game's an opportunity for people to perform and we're very black and white, myself and Cliff (Byrne, his assistant)," said McCann. "We explain this to players all the time – if you go onto the pitch we give you a platform to perform and it's down to you. I feel like we don't have enough people performing at the minute to where I know they can be.

"We look a little bit of a safe team at the minute and it's hard to see.

"Maybe Morecambe took more toll on us than I thought and we took it into the game against Bradford but the start gave me a bit of hope because we started the game quite brightly.

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"I'm just really surprised and shocked how the boys have gone away from the first 20 minutes of the game because we were causing them problems, getting in behind them, sustaining attacks from set plays that we nearly scored off and for whatever reason we just came away from it."

McCann needs more players with the mindset of Jamie Sterry, a summer signing who has now made four substitute appearances on the road back from the injury suffered on the first day of the season.

"Confidence comes from within," said the right-back. "You've got to build your own confidence and have the mindset that you can win. If your confidence is low as a player you can always change things if you work hard on the pitch.

"We need to stick together and believe we can win."

The bigger picture is a looming transfer window. Players are in danger of being chucked out of it.

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"I should be the best I can be every possible day so it shouldn't matter if someone new comes in or if I was the only full-back here," said Sterry.

They were fine words, but actions are badly letting Rovers down.

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