Preview: Doncaster v Wycombe

The Basics

As it stands: Doncaster 32-13910 (11th, 50 pts, GD 9) | Wycombe 33-1788 (3rd, 59 pts, GD 7)
Form: Doncaster WDWLL | Wycombe LWLWW
Last time out: Shrewsbury 1-0 Doncaster | Wycombe 3-1 Tranmere
League head-to-head:

P Doncaster W Wycombe W D Ave. GpG
7 1 5 1 2.85

Previous meeting: Wycombe 1-0 Doncaster (League One, 23/11/19)

Setting the Scene

So here we are, the start of the run-in – the final quarter of this utterly ridiculous season. It’s also the last game before free weekend number SIX, so bringing something back south becomes all the more necessary. After much improved performances in our first consecutive wins since November – albeit against the sides second and third from bottom – and the two lots of superb news this week – the completion of the takeover and Gareth and Dobbo’s new deals – the belief which had begun to wane is beginning to return.

We’ll see for sure if we’ve turned the corner as we face a Doncaster team who themselves have only beaten the bottom three and Bristol Rovers in their last ten – but did hold Sunderland to a draw at the Stadium of Light and only lost 1-0 after a well contested affair with title-chasing Coventry. The utter state of League One this season means that Donny will play eight of their final 12 fixtures away from home, so they’ll be eager to capitalise on their solid record at the Keepmoat Stadium – where we’ve lost and drawn on our two visits to date – and attempt to mount an unlikely late play-off charge.

Opposition Overview

Last season: 6th in League One (lost to charlton in play-off semi-finals)
Manager: Darren Moore (appointed July 2019)
Top scorer: Kieran Sadlier (AM) – 10
Most assists: James Coppinger (AM), Kieran Sadlier – 6
Style of play: Short passes, patient build-up, attack more centrally

A Deeper Look

Doncaster v Wycombe Basic Comparison of Styles

November’s narrowest, latest of victories over Donny tipped in our favour to due to the first half red card shown to centre-back rock Tom Anderson – one of the few times he’s put a foot (or both feet) wrong all season – but it also shone a light on the philosophy instilled by Darren Moore in his young crop of players. Although recent setbacks – being held at home by Rochdale and losing at Shrewsbury – have prompted the former Donny, West Brom and Derby defender to chop and change his line-up and deviate from a largely effective 4-2-3-1 set-up, his team haven’t regressed stylistically. They’re the least direct outfit in the league, with a ‘long ball score’ of 1.27* – as per the League One Long Ball Index – and the type of opponent we can struggle to counterract.

*For comparison, Wycombe’s is 1.67, the joint sixth highest

The overriding factor in our making it so hard for ourselves in the reverse meeting was the visitors’ ability to cope better with ten men than our ability to exploit the space and make our extra man count – something we’ve more or less proved we can’t do. That’s less an indictment of us than it is a compliment of how well-drilled Donny generally are. On their day, they can assuredly dispatch with anyone – as evidenced by their 5-0 aggregate double over Peterborough, for example. Their problem has been consistency in results; they’ve not gone more than three games unbeaten at any point in 2019/20. They are, though, in a perioid of transition – having seen manager Grant McCann and talisman John Marquis leave for Hull and Portsmouth respectively in the summer, and subsequently adopting this different way of playing – so there’s no real sense that they’re underachieving.

Formation-wise, Gaz could  look to match Doncaster by going 4-2-3-1 himself – not an alien concept to us, having changed to it partway through last month’s 3-1 triumph over Bristol Rovers – but that’s unlikely. Above all else, why tinker with such an encouraging system from the off? Their hyper-possession-based style is the main ‘concern’ and we may assume something more resembling a 4-5-1 when they have the ball – we won’t particularly press a side like that until they enter the final third – but the temptation is just to say ‘Keep doing what we’ve been doing’: familiar 4-3-3; Bayo as the focal point (although he has made major impact off the bench in each of our last two clashes with Donny, so perhaps we’ll see Josh Parker or Alex Samuel); Joe Jacobson and Fred Onyedinma linking up telepathically on the left; defending robustly and with ruthless organisation, as we are at least starting to do again. It goes without saying that the latter point is imperative, but it’s worth emphasising when dealing with the division’s joint leaders for shots per game (13.3) – the supply coming from two of the very most accurate passers in the third tier, Championship-linked captain Ben Whiteman and Arsenal loanee Ben Sheaf, potentially making stemming the flow a tall order. Whatever the chances come to, Donny create them abundance – and while January signing Fejiri Okenabirhie, a much needed finisher, is suspended, rapid and energetic on-loan Wolves forward Niall Ennis has got himself among the goals lately.

A draw here would be a good result; a win would be great. Seeing as we’ve only managed to defeat a top half side on the road once all season, it’s hard to get our hopes up, but we’ve made a habit these last few years of surprising ourselves as much as everyone else. Bayo to break Nathan Tyosn’s Football League goals record with a last-minute winner against his former club to possibly send us back into the top two, anyone?

Possible Line-ups

DONCASTER

Doncaster XI v Wycombe

WYCOMBE

Wycombe XI v Doncaster

In the Middle: David Rock

Games in 2019/20 Yellows Reds Penalties Last refereed Doncaster Last refereed Wycombe
25 86 4 7 Peterborough 0-3 Doncaster (26/12/19) MK 1-2 Wycombe (FLT, 12/11/19)

Header image by Dan Clark
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