Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse…
Rovers never even sat in the car, let alone got into first gear or anything higher, turning in one of the most abject, soulless performances in years. There was no fight, no endeavour and certainly no sign that we can come out of this relegation battle with our League One status intact.
Players who only two months ago looked capable of mounting a serious Play Off push now look like hapless no marks, unable to muster even a meaningful effort to win a football match. The bulk of this side took Stoke City to the limit, but confidence is through the floor and there appears no way to pull them back up.
Every different three-man combination in midfield, and there have been many, has failed to live up to the task. The formation is not getting the best out of these players and needs to be addressed immediately. In the 3-5-2, Keegan is unable to perform his ‘shielding’ role, whilst a young winger in Riccardo Calder is being asked to play in a steely trio. At Scunthorpe they failed to break up play, put pressure on the opposition or build attacks, spending 90 minutes looking hopeless.
Calder is one of a number of young, inexperienced players brought in on loan from Premier League clubs with only a handful of professional games under his belt. Whilst also blooding academy youngsters into this side, Fergie has gambled with our League One status by putting too much on young shoulders. Despite their best efforts here, the likes of Calder, Grant and Gooch all know that even if we go down, it’s back to the plush Premier League surroundings for them in the summer.
Serious questions must now be asked of the manager. Too many line-up changes from game-to-game, plus constant alterations to the formation, are not allowing us to have any stability or regularity to the way we play. Too often players are put in unfamiliar roles that they clearly aren’t up to, and when you add this to the above questions over recruitment, it is time to stop giving Ferguson a free pass for our problems. He is the man in charge, but can he show what he’s made of and get us out of this?
It was a field day for Scunthorpe, they had time and space in abundance to execute their game plan and take the win. You have to wonder where the next goal is going to come from. It’s just the one in six games now, and we never even looked like scoring here. It took until well into the second half for us to even win a corner, let alone put a solid effort on target. It isn’t acceptable, and not enough is being done to change it.
Scunthorpe – Surely the easiest three points the Iron will collect all season, along with bragging rights that could be lauded over us for a while if our slide to League Two isn’t halted. This result means our local rivals have now done the double over us for the first time since 1991, a truly embarrassing stat for the club.
Our Relegation Rivals – Blackpool and Oldham in particular must be delighted with our total capitulation. The Latics now have two games in hand on us and just three points to make up, it looks inevitable that we will grace the bottom four again soon.
Darren Ferguson – There can be no hiding for the manager now. This is the kind of situation where good managers earn their money and reputations, and bad ones crumble into oblivion. There are genuine questions over his selections, tactics and recruitment, as well as the fact that he seems unable to motivate an underperforming set of players with no confidence.
Paul Keegan – As bad a showing as you will see from the Irishman, who looked lost in the three man midfield and unable to even commit to the basics. Usually so assured in the centre of the park, Keegan just wasn’t his usual self and hid within himself, not what you would expect from the man wearing the captain’s armband.
The Rovers Supporters – We can forgive a bad run, or a narrow defeat. We can forgive things not going our way, but to pay to sit in the rain and watch the players turn in such a poor showing lacking effort and quality in a local derby, or any match, is not something we as fans should have to put up with. This defeat was the worst way to reward the loyal fans who packed the away end at Glanford Park.
It is hard to find the positives from yet another defeat, this arguably the worst of the entire run that is threatening to turn this season into one ending in relegation. Something must be done immediately to stop the final nail in the coffin to what has been a truly golden era for the club.