Paul Goodwin’s Verdict: The rocky road to survival?

Pascal Chimbonda in action during Saturday's 3-1 defeat at Portsmouth.

Pascal Chimbonda in action during Saturday's 3-1 defeat at Portsmouth.

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WITH the dust still settling on the scale of Willie McKay’s involvement at Doncaster Rovers, it’s crystal clear that John Ryan found himself stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Rovers have been plastered all over the national press like never before this season - but the club’s focus now needs to turn to on-the-pitch matters and a crucial double-header on home soil.

And boss Dean Saunders must leave no stone unturned to dig Doncaster out of the first rocky spell of his reign.

When Ryan agreed an exclusive deal with McKay it was typical of a chairman who likes to think outside of the box - and wasn’t scared of the negative headlines he knew would follow.

Any publicity is good publicity for Mr Ryan.

With Rovers in trouble at the foot of the Championship, Ryan was damned if he did change things, damned if he didn’t.

He’s taken the biggest risk of his chairmanship by effectively granting Agent McKay the freedom of the Keepmoat Stadium.

But it could yet turn out to be one of the shrewdest decisions in Doncaster’s history.

Certainly noone can ever accuse Ryan of turning a blind eye, or hiding away, when the going gets tough.

His new business model might not be to everyone’s taste - agents have a lot to answer for in a modern footballing era short on loyalty and fuelled by cash - but it might be the only way to preserve Championship football in Doncaster.

When you see a club like Leicester City sack Sven-Goran Eriksson some 11 weeks into the season, with the Foxes just two points shy of a play-off place, you realise exactly what Rovers are up against this season!

Only time will tell whether the gamble will pay off.

In one respect it’s hardly revolutionary for a struggling side to bring in loan players in an attempt to move away from danger.

McKay’s exclusive handle on transfers makes this arrangement different - but his massive amount of contacts, as well as the financial benefits Rovers could earn, can only be seen as positives for Doncaster.

It’s man-managing the squad, and dealing with these so-called ‘unhappy’ players from elsewhere, that will prove to be the hardest job.

And preventing the unhappiness from spreading throughout the dressing room - a potentially fatal problem - could become a thankless task if Rovers fail to pick up the right results.

Time will tell.

Rovers desparately need a positive result over the next week, and it’s more likely to come on Saturday than Tuesday night.

Very few individuals in the Doncaster squad could feel aggrieved at present if they did indeed lose their place in the side to a short-term arrival - and collectively the performance at Portsmouth just wasn’t good enough.

It won’t be long before the new manager’s patience starts to run out.

Saunders now knows exactly what he’s up against and he’ll still be trying to work out now how the poor second half showing at Fratton Park came so soon after such a promising display at Blackpool.

Consistency at Rovers is something that seems to be consistently absent.

Saunders named an unchanged side on the south coast and if he does the same again on Saturday his players have to show a lot more fight than they did against Pompey.

Against a direct Coventry team, there’s every chance that it won’t be pretty to watch.

But avoiding what would be a disastrous defeat is paramount - because Tony Mowbray’s Boro pose much more of a threat.

Rovers 2 Coventry 1

Rovers 1 Middlesbrough 2