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Wellens: McCann has returned Rovers' footballing identity

12 May 2019

Former Doncaster Rovers midfielder Richie Wellens says that the side will head into Sunday’s Play-Off Semi-Final first leg full of confidence when they welcome Charlton Athletic to the Keepmoat Stadium.

Rovers secured their spot in this season’s Play-Offs with a 2-0 win over Coventry City on the final day of the regular season with goals from Kieran Sadlier and John Marquis, and Wellens says the latter of the two players is one of the best strikers in Sky Bet League One.

“Obviously, Charlton finished with a few more points than Doncaster in the regular season, but when you get to this stage of the competition anything can happen, and in recent years when it comes to Doncaster’s big games in getting promotion they have done really well in them,” said Wellens.

“Although Charlton have been in great form and are a big club, I think Doncaster will go into this game full of confidence themselves. In John Marquis, they have one of the best strikers in the league, and it is definitely there for them to get to Wembley.

“I don’t think Doncaster should have been favourites for relegation at the start of the season. They are a club which, in recent years, has spent quite a long time in the Championship.”

The South Yorkshire outfit finished 15 points behind the Addicks in the regular season, but Wellens says that with players like James Coppinger and Andy Butler in their ranks, experience could be a key factor over the two legs.

“I think it is hugely important to have individuals like Butler and Coppinger in the dressing room too; sometimes when you get to these games in front of the Sky Sports cameras, some of the young lads can get carried away and not do the simple things,” he added.

“I think Mallik Wilks has done really well on his loan spell from Leeds United, and I think Ben Whiteman is a very good midfield player - he’s someone who is quite young but knows the position really well.

“He reads the game well and his defensive position is very good, and he passes through the line really well, so I have been impressed with Whiteman this season as well as Marquis and Wilks.”

The 39-year-old was part of the promotion-winning team at the end of the 2007/08 season, beating rivals Leeds United in the Play-Off Final at Wembley, and Wellens says being underdogs that day suited them.

He said: “It was a brilliant day and I think everyone dreams about playing at Wembley in front of a massive crowd, and to beat a club like Leeds United, who were your local rivals back then, was a big achievement.

“We were underdogs on the day but we knew our capabilities as we had shown it time and time again throughout the season, we were a very good footballing team at that time and we didn’t get any stage fright on the day. 

“We finished on more or less the same points if not higher than Leeds that season, we proved over the course of 46 games that season that we were better than them and it showed on the day.”

Wellens, who is now the manager of Sky Bet League Two side Swindon Town, has been impressed with current Rovers boss Grant McCann’s attacking style of play this season, adding: “Grant is in a very similar position to me in my managerial career.

“My first game as a manager was against Grant’s Peterborough United team and he made a good team there too, a team that wanted to attack and score goals and play football the right way.

“He has put that back into Doncaster, I think Doncaster have that kind of style now that we had under Sean O’Driscoll, they’ve got that identity back and Grant has been perfect for that.

“I would have expected them to make the Play-Offs this season, especially when you look at the quality within that team but you have to give Grant so much credit for the way he team has played football, and even if they don’t go up this season, the way he plays football will keep progressing the club and that can only be a good thing.”

You can follow all the coverage of the EFL Play-Offs via Twitter (@EFL, @SkyBetChamp, @SkyBetLeagueOne and @SkyBetLeagueTwo).

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