Why Doncaster Rovers’ Premier League prospects make them such good fun to watch

Doncaster's Taylor Richards celebrates his goal with Tyreece John-Jules (Picture: Howard Roe)Doncaster's Taylor Richards celebrates his goal with Tyreece John-Jules (Picture: Howard Roe)
Doncaster's Taylor Richards celebrates his goal with Tyreece John-Jules (Picture: Howard Roe)
Watching Doncaster Rovers beat Bristol Rovers 4-1 on Saturday it was easy to see why Darren Moore is having so much joy persuading top clubs to loan him young players.

More than anything, it was just good fun.

Doncaster play positive, attractive football embellished by players schooled in top academies. Stoke City’s Josef Bursik had a quiet time in goal but Brighton’s Taylor Richards and Arsenal’s Tyreece John-Jules provide flashes of extra quality. Jason Lokilo, on loan from Crystal Palace last season but now permanently signed, played his part in the first half.

With Bristol Rovers causing occasional threats on the counter-attack in the first half and from set pieces early in the second, it was fun to watch and, winger Jon Taylor confirmed, play in.

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Doncaster's Madger Gomes celebrates his goal with Brad Halliday and Tyreece John-Jules  (Picture: Howard Roe)Doncaster's Madger Gomes celebrates his goal with Brad Halliday and Tyreece John-Jules  (Picture: Howard Roe)
Doncaster's Madger Gomes celebrates his goal with Brad Halliday and Tyreece John-Jules (Picture: Howard Roe)

Moore enjoyed it, too, but his pleasure comes mostly at Doncaster’s Cantley Park training ground. No game until the weekend is what he likes most.

“I enjoy it even more working with them in training every single day,” said the former defender. “I get the joy of understanding what they’re capable of doing.

“It’s my job to nurture them, bring that talent to the surface and use them when the time is right. It’s a joint effort.”

Moore had worked his players so hard that Lokilo came off at half-time with “fatigue”.

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Doncaster's Jon Taylor is also on target  (Picture: Howard Roe)Doncaster's Jon Taylor is also on target  (Picture: Howard Roe)
Doncaster's Jon Taylor is also on target (Picture: Howard Roe)

Doncaster play as top academy youngsters are taught to – on the ground and without being afraid of taking risks. “They’ve been identified as individuals to fit into a system,” explained Moore. “We give them the ideas but they’ve got to put the work in.”

Taylor explained: “Last season was totally different to how I’d played for the last few years but these young lads coming in from Arsenal and Brighton, they play this way so I don’t think it’s much different for them.

“The Saturday-Tuesday games, it might get a bit harder for them because they’re not used to it but hopefully they can keep going and try to get into those first teams.

“He (Moore) gives the lads a lot of trust on the ball, to try and create things, and for the lads at the back to try and get out of the press. If the fans were here they’d be a bit nervy at times but that’s the way we have to play to create the chances. We work on it every day.”

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Not that Taylor believes nervousness would have much impact on the youngsters. “I don’t think these young lads would mind any pressure. If anything, it would get them going even more. The young lads demand high standards. The warm-up wasn’t the best so we demanded more from each other and got each other going.”

Odd moments gave away the pedigree of John-Jules, a centre-forward who loves to come wide, and Richards behind him. One John-Jules touch to take Madger Gomes’s pass, spin and leave his marker for dead was wonderful, as was the composure of Richards to take a touch and make space as defenders dived around him before stroking the third goal in after 57 minutes.

That was the start of Doncaster pulling clear but until then it had been tight. For all Doncaster’s fancy football, Taylor’s free-kicks and Tom Anderson’s headers made the difference.

Twice the old-fashioned centre-back nodded deep balls back. Ben Whiteman drilled in the first for Joe Wright to make certain by tapping in, then Gomes lashed in his fourth goal of the season.

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“(Goalkeeping coach) Paul Gerrard has been working extremely hard on set-plays and he’ll have been pleased,” pointed out Moore.

Luke Leahy’s lovely lob to beat Bursik two minutes later ensured Doncaster could not get comfortable on a cold afternoon.

Zain Westbrooke’s set-pieces caused problems at the start of the second half but Max Ehmer volleyed like the centre-back that he is and Anderson put centre-forward Brandon Hanlan under pressure that caused him to miss.

Doncaster quickly followed up Richards’s goal, and Taylor was a deserving recipient of the tap-in. A turn and pass from 39-year-old James Coppinger, Lokilo’s replacement, was on a par with anything the youngsters produced, freeing John-Jules for the assist.

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The hosts should have won by more, Taylor, Reece James and substitute Fejiri Okenabirhie missing the target. The classy Whiteman did, too, but from distance his was more forgiveable.

Whiteman played John-Jules through in the 85th minute for the goal he deserved but rather than shoot he opted to lay the ball back to no-one. Something else for Moore to work on.

“We thirst and hunger for these kind of weeks,” he said. “We’ve got a full week of work.”

Former Shrewsbury, Peterborough and Rotherham player Taylor did not hesitate to add: “It’s the most enjoyable team I’ve played in by far. The way the gaffer wants us to play, the training, the standards are so high every single day, it’s great to be involved in.

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“We are a very good team and when we get the ball down we play some really good stuff.

“The way the gaffer wants us to play and the players he brings in, I think he knows if we go into the Championship we can do well.”

That might be getting ahead of themselves, but Doncaster are thinking long-term.

Doncaster Rovers: Bursik, Halliday, Anderson, Wright, James, Whiteman, Gomes; Lokilo (Coppinger 46), Richards (John 72); Taylor (Okenabirhie 88), John-Jules. Unused substitutes: Jones, Amos, Williams, Butler.

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Bristol Rovers: Jaakkola, Kilgour, Ehmer, Harries; Leahy (Tutonda 79), Grant, Westbrooke, McCormick; Mitchell-Lawson (Ayunga 65), Hanlan, Daly (Walker 74). Unused substitutes: van Stappershoef, Upson, Hargreaves, Baldwin.

Referee: T Kettle (Rutland).

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James Mitchinson

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