The end of the season is a desolate place. A barren wasteland punctuated by the odd shrub of a play-off game, but sooner or later they too disappear from view and we’re left with the unrelenting tundra of unsubstantiated transfer rumours engineered without fact just to fill the gap where the football season used to be. There remains thankfully one oasis in all this post season gloom, and that is our now annual Dutch Uncle’s Statistical Season Review. Our own stats guru has been working hard from the depths of his underground lab in Den Haag to produce a look back on the Rovers season through the simple medium of cold hard facts. There are more facts in DU’s Statistical Review than you’ll find in a whole summer of transfer stories. So sit back and enjoy part one from our man in the Low Countries.
Lets start, as we do so often in articles on this site, with a nod to just how far this club of ours has come. Rovers’ 12th place finish represents the second best performance of any side entering the Football League from the Conference; only Colchester United’s 10th place finish at this tier, with 69 points in 2006-07 betters this Doncastrian campaign. The 2009-10 season also marks the first time that Doncaster Rovers have ever finished higher in the League than Sheffield Wednesday. There are now just twelve teams in the leagues which Rovers have never finished a season higher than; Arsenal, Aston Villa, Birmingham, Blackburn , Liverpool, Manchester City, Middlesborough, Newcastle, Sheffield United, Stoke, Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion. But for another win, Rovers could have scratched Middlesbrough off that list too.
Next season will mark Rovers’ third in the Championship, making this just the second time in the club’s history that they have achieved more than two consecutive seasons in the second tier, the only other time being the eight seasons from 1950 to 1958. In our report from the final game of the season Viva Rovers proclaimed that this was Doncaster’s third highest ever finish, but it seems even in that announcement we were doing the current side an injustice. Factor in the twenty teams in the Premier League, Rovers 12th place in the Championship gives them a national ranking of 32nd. The 11th place second tier finish of 1951 came behind a twenty-two team top flight, meaning an overall ranking of 33rd, making this last season actually Rovers second best of all time. The only time it’s ever been better was in the club’s first ever league season in 1901-02, when they finished 7th (25th overall). Rumour has it even then some folk on the tram back down Bennetthorpe could be heard complaining about the ‘tippity-tappety football’ that secured that seventh spot.
Shelton Martis’ late header at the Keepmoat Stadium a fortnight ago not only helped win a seven-goal thriller of a local derby, but also ensured a final goal difference of +1, the first time ever Rovers have registered a positive difference in the second tier. The previous best came in 1956-57 when 77 goals both scored and conceded gave a level goal difference, or a goal average of 1.00 as it was. The sixty point total secured with the final day goalless draw at Swansea was also the highest number of points Rovers have achieved in a single second tier season, even if calculated against two points for a win. However, an increase in drawn games meant that last season’s club record of seventeen second tier league wins was not matched this campaign.
A mark of Rovers improvement this season has been their defensive record. In December Rovers achieved a run of four consecutive clean sheets from a run of four successive wins against Crystal Palace, Sheffield Wednesday, Bristol City and Derby County. This was the first time Rovers have achieved such an impenetrable defensive run at this level, and only seven times in the club’s history has a run of four consecutive shut-outs been bettered. Rovers also matched last season’s tier two record of fourteen clean sheets from 46 matches, though its worth noting that Doncaster also registered twelve clean sheets in the 34 match season of 1901-02 and the 42 match season of 1947-48.
Right, you can’t have too much of a good thing so that concludes part one of Dutch Uncle’s Statistical Review of the 2009-10 season. We’ll have the second part later in the weekend, possibly even next week. Who knows? I’d love to say this was a strategic move to keep you coming back for more, but the truth is its so I don’t have to battle through a hangover to produce more content over the weekend. Shhh, I’m allowed, its post-season.
Caveat – no figures quoted in this article are official. Dutch Uncle uses many sources including club handbooks, Rothmans/Sky annuals, and best of all the official Rovers history by Bluff & Watson. For definitive data the reader is referred to Tony Bluff and/or Barry Watson.