Even the most optimistic of Coventry City fans would admit that back-to-back 5-0 were next to impossible. On an occasion where the club was celebrating a legend’s retirement and there was renewed hope for the future, to barely look interested in making the next to impossible possible was a little galling. This final day of the season is now about pooping someone else’s party, when with just a few better results over the course of the season, it could have been a party of our own.
With nothing left to play for, Mark Robins faces a decision as to whether to name his strongest possible side or to put out a side with a view to next season. Capping the season off with a win to take us to the 70-point mark would put a nice gloss on a decent-to-middling campaign, but finishing either 10th, 9th or 8th will have little bearing on the now more important business of next season.
With Doncaster Rovers in need of a win to secure their play-off spot, how this side can mentally and physically handle the higher levels of intensity our hosts are likely to produce is going to be the key challenge for this game. You would suspect that those that know they will be here next season will be minded to put in their best effort. Were Mark Robins to only pick a team of players that are staying with the club, we would be without a goalkeeper or right-back.
Moreover, there is little room for maneuver for Mark Robins if he does want to make sweeping changes to the side. With the under-23s having gone through 120 minutes of football on Monday night, it seems unlikely that any will be involved in this game. Conor Chaplin and Jordan Willis seem the likeliest to be given a final day run-out, but it would be surprising if there were any more than a couple of changes.
Last Time We Met
The last time we won five league games in a row was in 1998 with a side featuring Roland Nilsson, Gary Breen, George Boateng, Darren Huckerby and Dion Dublin. We won a fifth game in a row earlier this season against Doncaster Rovers with a side featuring Michael Doyle, Tom Davies, Abu Ogogo and Conor Chaplin up front.
Two excellent finishes from set-pieces from Jordy Hiwula and Luke Thomas put us in an unassailable 2-0 lead despite Doncaster Rovers completely dominating the second-half, pulling a goal back and Junior Brown being forced to clear off the line in the closing stages of the game.
Manager – Grant McCann
There is a strong argument that Grant McCann has been the League One manager of the season. Stepping into a Doncaster Rovers side that had struggled last season relatively late in pre-season as a result of the surprise departure of Darren Ferguson – now in charge of play-off rivals Peterborough United – McCann has quickly assembled a positive, ball-playing and attacking Doncaster Rovers side that have been in the top six for much of the campaign.
Although McCann had inherited a goalscorer in John Marquis and a key creative presence in James Coppinger, some key additions in Liverpool youngster Herbie Kane in central midfield and Leeds loanee Mallik Wilks in attack to take the burden off Marquis have made Doncaster much more of an all-round threat and possibly even greater than the sum of their parts. That it has been McCann, who underwhelmed with a much more talented Peterborough side in his previous managerial stint, has been especially remarkable.
Who To Look Out For?
John Marquis in attack is clearly the man to keep quiet for Doncaster Rovers, even if they are much more than a one-man side this season. Marquis is very similar in style to Harry Kane, a big forward who occupies defenders and can link the play well but also someone who scores a lot of goals by virtue of taking a lot of shots. Despite reaching 20 goals this season, Marquis has a tendency to miss some big chances but has the attitude to put those misses out of mind and keep getting into good positions.
Marquis is supported in attack by Mallik Wilks who generally plays on the right and is pacey as well as powerfully built, and has scored 14 goals this season. On the left or in a deeper-role is the evergreen James Coppinger, League One’s most creative player with 16 assists at the age of 38.
Doncaster have creativity further back in midfield in the form of Liverpool loanee Herbie Kane who can both dictate play and get into dangerous positions further forward, and Ben Whiteman who is perhaps a less technical and more energetic presence in the centre of the park. With attack-minded full-backs, particularly Danny Andrew at left-back who is also an excellent set-piece taker, Doncaster can really stretch teams once they gain control of possession.
Areas To Exploit
The chief area to exploit will be Doncaster’s nerves on such an important fixture for them. Having been comfortably in 6th place ahead of a spluttering Peterborough United side for much of the second half of the campaign, Doncaster have failed to win their last three games to secure 6th-place. That being said, Doncaster are undoubtedly a better side at home than away.
With no pressure for ourselves to win, we can focus purely on a counter-attacking performance as Doncaster look to take the impetus in this game. It feels like the balance of this game will rest upon who scores the first goal – not least because we have a terrible record in winning points from losing positions this season.