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Club News

Lancashire Red: Running on Empty

15 March 2014

If you’re feeling these latest reports have an air of resignation about them, then you’d be right. Two months ago I’d have said that despite Doncaster’s reputation as something of a bogey side for us, this would definitely have been a winnable fixture with the form we were in at the time. Instead, today makes seven games without a win and a run of form befitting a side near the foot of the table, like a certain Yorkshire club whom we failed to pick up any points from last week, let alone beat.

Frustrating, isn’t it? It’s hard to believe we’re still in the top six given our woeful form right now, which makes the pill all the more difficult to swallow when you think that had the good form continued we’d be at the very least breathing down Burnley's necks and possibly even making Leicester look over their shoulders.

But there’s absolutely no point in looking at them any more this season. Historically we usually seem to experience a slump in form around this stage of proceedings under King Billy so in one sense we’re only seeing what we’ve seen before. That said, the injuries have not only caught up with us, they’ve well and truly overtaken us as each week brings fresh concern over this player or that, and despite what critics might say, this has to be the defining point of the season. We might as well get used to it and hope lady luck does suddenly remember how she’s forsaken us and maybe give us a timely shot in the arm before the end of the season.

For all that however, I do think Billy got it wrong with his team selection today. Whilst I was delighted to see Andy Reid back in the starting line-up much earlier than expected, I couldn’t help wonder if this was too early, especially given his early departure from the game, however much we miss him when he’s not playing. More seriously though, the welcome reversion to playing two up front was totally undermined with the inclusion of a makeshift striker whose form has been questionable in any position of late, and an established striker who simply cannot hit the proverbial barn door.

All it would have taken for the misery to be complete was for one of Doncaster’s familiar faces (Ritchie Wellens, reputed Reds fan James Coppinger and most significantly the much-missed Billy Sharp) to pop up and poke one past us and we’d never have replied.

Thankfully it didn’t come to that, though it felt as if it had. My guest today was my dad, which meant our annual treat in The Castle Club - as always an enjoyable experience with a warm welcome, nice food and a very comfortable environment to watch the game. It’s just too bad the 90 minutes starting at 3pm failed to match it.

The Championship, Saturday 15th March 2014, Kick-off 1500hrs
Nottingham Forest 0 - 0 Doncaster Rovers
The City Ground

Bright and cool, dry
Away fans

Some 1300 spread about the away corner of Bridgford Lower, making it look like they’d brought a good following which was some 700 short of what would be regarded as such. Disappointing for what is for them a local fixture. Difficult to tell how vocal they were as I was sat behind glass today.
Kick-off bang on 3pm, even while Mull of Kintyre/City Ground chant was in full swing.
The Match
And that was about it. I’ve always defended the fans’ right to express their displeasure at abject performances by the team as a whole, though I hardly thought the booing heard at the final whistle today was called for. This would never be the first choice team under normal circumstances, although you’d expect those lesser used players given their chance would make the most of it. I don’t know what the answer is, or indeed why certain players were favoured over others. But then I’m only a fan who turns up each time hoping for the best, trusting on those paid to make those decisions. But yet again I fail to understand why so many are calling for King Billy’s head on the back of a barren spell (nothing new, though in the circumstances hardly unexpected), or indeed his relationship with the press (nothing new there either, though I wish sad individuals  like The Mail’s Charles Sale would leave him and this club alone). Sure, his actions at times do cause a few raised eyebrows but is he alone on that score? I don’t think so. And STILL those calling for him to go FAIL to come up with an alternative of even the remotest credibility. Be careful what you wish for, or we’ll be turning the clock back to Autumn 2011 all over again. Funny how it’s all gone quiet over there once again. It’ll be quieter still this time next week if we happen to win at Derby. Fickle doesn’t even come close.
Which sadly leaves the one person who just seems to have totally lost his way. Not so long back we were counting the number of times Simon Cox was getting caught offside. Today, rather like other games of late there was little danger of that because he was at best dropping deep and at worst just disappearing altogether. Why Billy has persevered with him for so long when Hendo and Derbyshire are positively champing at the bit seems to make about as much sense as choosing a last-minute holiday on the Crimean coast. It’s just not happening for the guy with the number 31 shirt. Even Cox’s body language portrayed a distinct lack of hunger for the ball which meant we only finally had eleven players on the pitch when he was replaced by Hendo with 25 minutes still to play, though by this stage we’d lost Reidy’s inspiration and his disappearance straight down the tunnel sparked yet more injury worries.
Symptomatic of a team devoid of confidence, Halford proceeded to fire weakly at Johnstone from a distance instead of picking his spot when he had the time and space to do so. Radi did at least ask more questions of Johnstone during the first half and with a cracking shot much later on, though by that time most people were resigned to the inevitable, and you had to feel sorry for the large numbers of kids on KFAQ day who were well past the point of boredom and in the Castle Club where I was today they’d grown distinctly restless, and who could blame them?
So then, why was there no end product?
Pretty much the game of two halves. We started brightly with some neat passing, the stuff we sadly lacked at Turf Moor (can’t vouch for Oakwell or The Riverside ‘cos I wasn’t there). Greening was particularly influential with some perfectly weighted passes out to the wings and Gonzo was much more effective having reverted to his normal position as right back, cutting out the occasional Doncaster threat. Going forward Radi and Pato looked well capable of creating something, and although Reidy looked far from his fittest his presence and influence gave sufficient cause for optimism.
Were there any? Apart from a clean sheet there was little else to get excited about today.

No end product, wasteful balls repeatedly floated into the box and plucked out of the air by Johnstone, Cox going missing, poor team selection, a seventh successive game without a win and the goals distinctly drying up.

Darlow was back to his best with several fine stops and keeping Billy Sharp quiet, but Greening was easily the most creative with some pinpoint passing.

No contest: Cox was simply woeful, and Halford was not much better.
RefereeEddie Ilderton – Did OK most of the time, save one incident where he allowed Doncaster advantage for a full five seconds then blowing for a free kick the moment they were dispossessed. Bizarre.
Entertainment Value
5/10 – Goalless draws rarely make entertaining viewing, though in fairness the first half wasn’t bad. It’s just too bad that familiar feeling began to creep in as HT approached, that if we didn’t score now we’d still be playing next week with ‘nil’ after our name.

5 = Relegation fodder
4 = Flirting with danger
3 = Mid-table
2 = Playoffs
1 = Automatic
Promotion Rating
3 – another winnable game gone, and with our run of form going in totally the opposite direction to that of Wigan, Brighton and Reading, it can only be a matter of time before we’re dumped in 8th place, or worse. It may still be in our hands at this moment in time, though we seem to have long run out of steam and are just running on fumes, coasting to a standstill. Season in terminal decline, I’d say.

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