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Record Last Season + Quick Summary:
League Two - 3rd; W 25 / D 10 / L 11 / F 85 / A 55 / Pts 85
Recent history has seen Donny move divisions five times in the last six seasons. The board retained the services of manager Darren Ferguson following relegation to League Two. Last term was pockmarked with winning streaks of four matches and the free-scoring South Yorkshire outfit racked up handsome margins in a lot of these. The only poor spell of form they truly experienced came at the tail-end of the campaign when, having been at the summit after displacing early pacesetters Carlisle United, were themselves usurped by Plymouth Argyle. A 2-1 reverse at already relegated Hartlepool United scuppered their hopes of immediately returning as champions: a win would’ve seen them claim the title a point ahead of both Plymouth and Portsmouth. Despite the late disappointment, it would be churlish to label 2016/2017 as anything other than a success.
Top Goalscorer: John Marquis (26 goals in 45 starts/4,046 minutes)
Top Creator: James Coppinger (13 assists in 38 starts/3,161 minutes)
Manager/Head Coach: Darren Ferguson; the son of Sir Alex, who brought him through the ranks as a player at Manchester United. He was a more than capable player in his day and his first spell at Peterborough United came whilst he was still actively participating on the pitch. In his first full two seasons, he took them up consecutively to the Championship from League Two. They were immediately came back down to the third tier but he had left in November 2009. A disappointing spell at Preston North End followed before he once again returned to Cambridgeshire and led them out of League One, with his side playing mouth-watering, attacking football. He stayed for a four-year period once again suffering demotion. He has been in charge of Rovers since October 2015.
Ins: Ben Whiteman (Sheffield United on loan), Alex Kiwomya (Chelsea U23s on loan), Danny Andrew (Grimsby Town) & Niall Mason (Aston Villa U23s).
Outs: Cedric Evina (Crawley Town on loan), Mitchell Lund (Morecambe on loan), Joe Pugh (North Ferriby United), Aaron Taylor-Sinclair (Plymouth Argyle) & Gary McSheffrey (free agent).
Predicted First XI & Shape:
Tactics: Ferguson has stuck to a 3-5-2 in every pre-season friendly thus far, with the emphasis firmly placed on taking the game to the opponents in wave after wave of attacks. Most of the initial thrust will come from the wing-backs; the central defensive back three will remain fairly static in order to maintain a disciplined shape. Danny Andrew and Matty Blair offer pace and a direct style. None of the likely midfield trio are particularly of a holding bent, so the gaps between the lines once there is a transition in the passage of play could be considerable. On the positive side, that means six or seven bodies in the other team’s half whenever Donny have the ball.
Ben Whiteman brings with him a glowing reputation after an excellent loan spell last term at Mansfield Town; his creativity and scheming could take a little of the pressure off stalwart James Coppinger’s shoulders. The Rovers veteran is still more than equipped for the task at hand, oftentimes being the main focus for build-up play; he is excellent at retaining possession, long-range shooting and offering an out-ball for his teammates.
John Marquis will have Andy Williams alongside him in a potent strikeforce. The latter offers no shortage of agility and general movement and has fostered a good understanding with his partner. The former needs little introduction after his goalscoring exploits in the promotion-winning season; the target man is much more than that label normally suggests. He is exceptionally aggressive (usually in a fair way) at first winning and then keeping hold of the ball, rarely looks tired after 90 minutes and his aerial ability is up there with anyone else in the entire division.
Predicted ‘Area’ of Finish: Comfortably mid-table. The injury sustained by loan signing Alex Kiwomya is a blow but even without the Chelsea youngster’s help in the early weeks and months, there is little for Rovers to fear back in League One in terms of retaining their place and looking towards the top half of the division as a realistic target. Coppinger might not feature in quite as many matches but there is no shortage of playmakers to give Marquis and Williams juicy morsels to feed on.
Looking further back, the picture is currently less rosy. Former Newcastle United centre half Steven Taylor, who was recently on trial, has opted to sign for Peterborough and there is a chronic lack of midfielders who will provide shielding to the back three. The attacking overload could come back to bite Rovers more often than was the case last term now that they are a step up once more. Nevertheless, games at the Keepmoat should be exciting affairs and a season spent on an even keel might allow supporters to catch their collective breath and for Ferguson to continue the upward trend at a more gradual pace.