FA Cup Third Round: Doncaster Delight At Deepdale?4 min read
Preston North End were without as many as 10 senior players for New Years’ Day’s 2-1 defeat at Rotherham, due to a combination of injuries and Ben Pearson’s suspension.
Manager Alex Neil, therefore, had to name four academy graduates on the bench: Michael Crowe, Ethan Walker, Adam O’Reilly and Connor Simpson all made the match-day squad despite never having started a game in any competition for the Lilywhites.
Ideally, Neil would want to steadily fade out players who had been part of the 2014-15 promotion-winning side under Simon Grayson, like Daniel Johnson and Paul Gallagher, but injuries have meant he is short on other players with pedigree at this level.
The Scot has this week added winger Josh Ginnelly and target man Jayden Stockley from Walsall and Exeter respectively, but both are cup tied, so in many positions, there is a choice between players who are jaded from a hectic run of fixtures and other players who might not be ready to start.
Those dilemmas work nicely for Doncaster Rovers, who are in fine form in League One after Tuesday’s 5-0 thumping of Rochdale.
What partly stood out in that match was the technical quality of the goals; Mallik Wilks, a busy, tricky nuisance all game, produced a sublime cross from the right to feed fellow wide forward Alfie May’s headed opener, while Ali Crawford’s free-kick was something special.
Think McGahey will still be having nightmares about @MallikWilks this time next year #drfc pic.twitter.com/a67qdLYOaH
— Matt (@Matt_Walker96) January 2, 2019
What also stood out though – and does nearly every week where Donny are involved – was how well co-ordinated each passage of play was and the fluidity of movement; lively Liverpool loanee Herbie Kane earned rave reviews prior to extending his stay.
The South Yorkshire side’s deepest midfielder is Benjamin Whiteman – and he’s one of the best technicians outside the Championship.
Because every midfielder and full-back has the capacity to break forward and either have a shot or create for a teammate, there are few opportunities for the opposition to have a breather.
John Marquis scored a brace against Dale but his presence was also key to detracting defenders’ attentions and thus creating space for teammates.
Marquis will relish the opportunity to face the inexperienced Jordan Storey and his more seasoned centre-back partner, Paul Huntington, who could be weary after a long period of games.
The visitors look underrated for their trip to Deepdale and we like their price to win inside 90 minutes.
Tip: Doncaster to win