Preview: Doncaster Rovers

In putting together a four game winning-streak, this current Sky Blue vintage are in rare territory as far as recent sides go. While this is a moment to pause and revel in a brilliant run, winning four games in a row isn’t an achievement in and of itself, it’s a means to an end. This run has put us on the verge of the play-offs, if we win again in this upcoming game against Doncaster Rovers, becoming the first Coventry City side in 20 years to win five in a row will be remarkable, but all it will do is give us a chance to move into the top six with 30 games remaining.

As brilliant as this run is, this hasn’t been a particularly dominant or swashbuckling side that can expect to blow teams away simply by showing up. This run has been predicated on working hard and winning the small battles all over the pitch to cumulatively tip the balance of the game in our favour. This feels like a side that cannot let performance levels slip, or it will be left exposed – as we saw just over a month ago in the mud and run of Bristol Rovers.

Possible Line-Up

Mark Robins surely won’t even be countenancing any changes to the starting XI for this game. While the squad depth is such that all but a few players could be replaced by their back-ups fairly seamlessly, needlessly changing things up was where we ran aground at times last season and must be avoided.

The main concern is whether we have the fitness levels to play three high-intensity games in the space of a week. While Doncaster will be facing the same challenge, this is something that is likely to have an impact on how the game plays out. Being able to make the right substitutions at the right time could be crucial in this game, with Jodi Jones and Amadou Bakayoko likely to have an important role to play later on.

Last Time We Met

Just when hope had faded that Tony Mowbray’s 2015/16 side – the last Coventry City side to win four in a row in the league – could salvage a play-off place, we had embarked on a run that gave us slim hope of making the top six. Against a Doncaster Rovers side close to relegation, the Sky Blues put in a limp, lifeless showing to succumb at the Keepmoat Stadium by 2-0.

Our last win against Doncaster came in 2013, just after another play-off challenge had been dashed – this time by a 10-point deduction – with Steven Pressley choosing to experiment with the side ahead of a difficult-looking next season. Cyrus Christie scored the winning goal in the first-half against a Championship-bound Doncaster Rovers side.

How Are They Doing?

Doncaster Rovers have been one of the surprise packages this season, overcoming a difficult summer following the surprise resignation of Darren Ferguson as manager in June, leaving his replacement – and former captain at Peterborough United – Grant McCann with little time to prepare for the new campaign. Thanks to the goals of John Marquis and Leeds loanee Mallik Wilks, Doncaster started the campaign strongly, but have showed signs of tailing-off over the past month.

At least, that’s what the results are showing, the shot data paints a different story. They had 17 shots, 7 on target, against Sunderland on Tuesday but failed to score, while they had 32 on Saturday against Gillingham but managed to draw 3-3, with Gillingham scoring almost every single one of theirs. While their home performances have been better than their away performances, it isn’t a stretch of the imagination that they might get the luck in this game that they haven’t over the past two.

John Marquis in attack is clearly the main man for Doncaster. The former Millwall youngster has found a home at the Keepmoat Stadium after multiple loan spells and scored the goals that fired them out of League Two two years ago, then kept them in League One last year. A big, powerful striker with a willingness to get shots away, Marquis is something of a Harry Kane-esque figure up front for Donny.

The story of this season thus far for Doncaster has been the ability of the supporting cast to share the goalscoring and creative burden with Marquis. The pacey and powerful Leeds loanee Mallik Wilks plays an important role out wide in their 4-3-3 system in bludgeoning defences, while the evergreen James Coppinger remains a key creative presence in the side.

In midfield, Liverpool youngster Herbie Kane has been making a name for himself dictating games in the centre of the park, while Ben Whiteman is another midfielder who can step up with goals for them from midfield. Warwick-born winger/full-back/central midfielder Matty Blair’s energy has supplied further dynamism in the middle of the pitch for Doncaster, although he is likely to be pushed out to right-back due to a suspension to first-choice Niall Mason.

Doncaster will also be missing key defensive leader Andy Butler for this game, although former Burnley youngster Tom Anderson is likely to come into the side having impressed during a loan spell towards the end of last season.

Prediction

Forgetting the four-game winning streak and the possibility of making it five in a row, this game is simply a great opportunity to move into the top six and prove to ourselves that we can achieve something this season beyond simply cementing ourselves back in this division. Doncaster are going to be a very tough side determined to right some of the wrongs of two unlucky recent results, which is why we’re going to have to replicate the levels of intensity and application that we’ve seen in recent weeks.

A five-game winning streak is almost too good to be true, it doesn’t quite feel like this side has demonstrated just why it can move into the upper echelons in this division and stay there. Yet these past few weeks have defied what I thought was achievable for this side. There is absolutely no reason why we cannot win this game, I think we might just fall short of reaching that fifth win in a row. 1-1.

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