Ahead of a game that could help solidify their play-off spot, we spoke to Doncaster Rovers fan website Into The Empty Net (@DRFC_ITEN) for this edition of the Opposition View, Doncaster Rovers v Plymouth Argyle.
How has your season panned out so far?
Excellently. Our hope in pre-season was that we’d be able to push on and finish in the top 10 after a slightly underwhelming return to the division last term, but to compete for a Play Off place for much of the season has been a pleasant surprise. Grant McCann has fostered a positive playing style and attitude in the squad and we have a lot of hope for the immediate future.
Are there any players who have stood out especially this season?
It’s hard to look past John Marquis. He’s one goal away from becoming the first striker in Rovers history to hit 20 league goals in one season at this level. He’s the talisman of the team but has suffered a concussion so you might be lucky this weekend in facing us without him. Ben Whiteman and Herbie Kane have been brilliant in midfield too, but again they are currently injured so we will be without some of our key players this weekend.
What tactical style would you say you’re playing right now?
Without Whiteman and Kane, we have had to adapt a more robust 4-2-3-1 formation in recent weeks, but it has paid dividends with three wins in a row. We like to build from the back, create quick and direct moves into the attacking third and utilise the pace of Mallik Wilks and Kieran Sadlier out wide. The ball usually stays on the deck and our transitional play has been a big plus all season.
With Rovers top scorer John Marquis looking likely to miss out through concussion, who do you think will replace him?
I’m expecting us to move Mallik Wilks into the central #9 role, as we had to last month at Blackpool when Marquis was suspended. That will create an opening on the right-hand side of the forward line which I expect will be filled by Alfie May. Nobody can fill Marquis’ role in the playing sense so we will probably need to re-think our approach play up front. May is busy and a nuisance but is small so won’t carry the same physical presence as Marquis.
Which Argyle player, if any, would you like to sign?
Ruben Lameiras seems to be the stand-out this season, some of the goals he’s scored are sensational. He is one of those ‘X factor’ players every team needs, we have one in Mallik Wilks but he’s only on loan and we’ll no doubt need a replacement next season. That said, I doubt Lameiras would be coming here if he were to leave Argyle!
Doncaster’s home form this season has been excellent, losing just twice in 21 league games and conceding only 19 goals. What do you put it down to?
A combination of two things that Grant McCann instilled when he took over last summer – confidence and unity. He has fostered a great team spirit which can carry a side when things aren’t always too easy on the pitch, and the confident, positive way that we play has made a big difference. It’s the main difference between being in the Top 6 and the bottom half I feel, because we had many of the same talented players last season but just couldn’t click together with any consistency.
You’ve drawn five and lost once in your six matches against the other sides currently occupying the play-off positions. How confident are you of promotion should you maintain sixth spot?
I’m a firm believer that form and previous results go out the window once you hit the Play Offs. If we make it, I fancy our chances against whomever we come up against. We have beaten Luton this season, were unlucky not to win at Barnsley and at home to Charlton and Portsmouth. It’s fine margins but if you match us up player-for-player against any one of the sides likely to be in the Play Offs I believe we are just as good. But we’ve got to get there first.
Winger Mallik Wilks has been in sensational form since signing on-loan from Leeds registering 14 goals and six assists. How do you rate your chances of securing him on-loan once again next season?
Slim to none. I think he’s destined for better things than League One, and the only real scenario I can see him returning here is if Leeds get promoted to the Premier League and we go up to the Championship. He’s maturing well here and has gotten away from the bad influences he had around him at home in Leeds, so I’m sure he’d be happy to come back here but if we’re still in League One next season I expect he’ll be sent out elsewhere.
Are there any real weak links you’re worried about?
Right back, especially if Lameiras is on that flank. We haven’t got an established right back since Niall Mason was sacked so midfielder Matty Blair is deputising there. He does a solid job for a forward-thinking player but it is unquestionably an area we suffer with now. The absence of our two best midfielders won’t help either, but since we switched to 4-2-3-1, Ali Crawford and Tommy Rowe have done a good job in there keeping us solid.
What is your prediction for the game?
I have to go for a win, our home form is excellent and we have hit form again despite injuries. Missing Marquis is going to make things tougher, but he hasn’t scored from open play in 10 games anyway, so I have faith in our goal-scoring capabilities regardless. Mallik Wilks is in red-hot form and if he is up for it again on Saturday you will have an impossible task containing him.
Good luck for the rest of the season, after this game of course!