A positive result for Rovers but at what cost?
- Rovers started the game with the same 5-3-2 formation favoured by Darren Ferguson last season. The lack of a decent right back was arguably the biggest catalyst for Rovers relegation. After one half of football it is safe to say that Matty Blair is not the answer. More on this later.
- Blair was constantly beaten down the right side by the marauding Jamaal Lascelles. The problem with 5-3-2 is that it calls for too many square pegs in round holes. Alcock also looked uncomfortable on the left side of a back three and Evina was non existent.
- Newcastle started with a strong side featuring Jonjo Shelvey, Daryl Janmaat, Aleksandar Mitrović and Matt Ritchie amongst others. As well organized and hard working as Rovers were, lets not take away from how awful Newcastle were in the first half. Aside from Lascelles, and a few moments of genius from Shelvey, the Magpies were bereft of ideas and lacked match fitness.
- As both sides were relegated last season, it is unsurprising that the first goal of the game came from a calamitous error. New signing Matz Sels had a shocker in the Newcastle goal as he took a terrible touch from a back pass and then promptly pushed over John Marquis. Andy Williams duly dispatched the penalty. 1-0.
- The second goal was almost as bad from a Newcastle point of view. Copps floated the ball to the back post, where Andy Butler was possibly the most unmarked a player has ever been from a corner. Butler had time to adjust his hair, top up his tan, and catch a few Pokemon, before heading to the back post where Andy Williams was waiting to nod home 2-0.
- A solid first half from Rovers was marred by a serious looking injury to Joe Wright who was then replaced by Mitchell Lund. Wright looked assured and calm at the back, something that was definitely missing in the last campaign. Hopefully he will be fighting fit come the start of the season.
- It was a different Rovers side that came out for the second half with Marosi, Garratt, Mandeville and Calder replacing Etheridge, Evina, Rowe and Blair. Calder was direct and looked confident but Garratt struggled to adapt to playing as part of a back five. You would think that Rovers miserable relegation would perhaps have changed Fergie’s mind about playing wing backs. In fact, he seems to have strengthened his resolve on this matter, despite all evidence pointing to it being a mistake.
- Newcastle dominated the early exchanges of the second half and grabbed a soft equaliser as Isaac Hayden’s deflected effort looped over Marko Marosi. Fortuitous but probably deserved.
- More bad news for Rovers just past the hour mark as Harry Middleton was stretchered off. Before the stretcher had even been set down, it was called into action again. This time for Craig Alcock. It was an evening that included all Rovers greatest hits: slapshod defending, freak injuries, bad luck and conceding late goals. Encore!
- Things went from bad to worse for Rovers as youngster Joey McCormick left the field with a shoulder injury. Despite the fact that Prince Moncrieffe was reportedly waiting in the wings, Rovers finished the game with 10 men. Newcastle took full advantage as Ayoze Perez struck on the 90th minute. Whilst it was disappointing to concede so late, a draw was probably a fair result.
Rovers goalkeepers – Both Ross Etheridge and Marko Marosi were excellent in the Rovers goal. Marosi in particular made a number of top class saves and he was understandably furious to be beaten by two deflected efforts. Marosi has been a patient and willing understudy and it is pleasing to see him doing so well.
Both sets of fans – 5698 is an excellent attendance for a pre season friendly and the figure of 2352 from Newcastle is, quite frankly, ridiculous, even taking into account all the Newcastle fans from Donny. The Black Bank was vocal and positive throughout. Lets keep it going into the start of the season now. Also nice to see Copps get a smattering of applause from the Newcastle end.
Mitchell Lund – I have written more about our right back problem then any other one thing on this site. It gives me great pleasure then to say that Mitchell Lund was excellent after replacing Joe Wright. Sharp, strong in the tackle and confident. The complete opposite of the boy who looked like a competition winner at the start of last season. Keep it up lad.
Rovers injury list – Alcock, Wright and Middleton join Mathieu Baudry, Gary McSheffrey and Paul Keegan on the treatment table. Hardly an ideal start to the season.
Rafa Benitez –Not long ago Rafa was managing Real Madrid. Now he finds himself at the Keepmoat Stadium. Presumably he found time to reel off a few facts to Darren Ferguson about his Dad…
Darren Ferguson – I can’t believe that Fergie gave a game to A. Trialist. Such a backward step to be looking at a player who has failed at so many other clubs. Ferguson out!
Whoever picked the man of the match – Matty Blair?? Utterly bizarre. Donny Dog had a better game.