Portsmouth v Doncaster Rovers: Paul Goodwin’s Verdict

Rovers' Billy Sharp tussles with Leeds' Darren O'Dea. Picture: Andrew Roe
Rovers' Billy Sharp tussles with Leeds' Darren O'Dea. Picture: Andrew Roe
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YOU get the feeling Rovers aren’t going to be quick on the draw under Dean Saunders - and sharpshooter Billy Sharp can fire them to victory at Fratton Park on Saturday.

Under Sean O’Driscoll it was very much a case of starting each game with a point and trying not to lose it.

But Dean Saunders wants his side to take the bull by horns and turn draws into wins.

He’d rather win one and lose two than draw three, if it means his side are playing in a positive manner with a positive mindset.

It could just be clever psychology on Saunders’ part to try and remove the fear of losing from a team still hungover from one of longest win-less runs in the club’s history.

It could be a reflection of the new manager’s boundless self confidence and belief in his new team.

Or it could just be the Saunders way - after a playing career during which he became accustomed to winning.

Saunders, despite his obsession with winning, would have happily taken a point from Bloomfield Road on Tuesday night when he got the type of performance from his team that everyone was expecting - but was sadly lacking - against Leeds on Friday.

His first reaction after the game, however, was that Rovers should not just have drawn the game but won it.

It’s positive talk and it’s about getting positive thoughts into the players’ heads - to get them playing without fear and showing their true ability.

There were certainly plenty of positives to take from the trip to the seaside.

And Rovers’ boss will be drumming those plus points back into his players ahead of this weekend’s trip to the south coast, where Doncaster are likely to face a rudderless Porstmouth ship after the exit of Steve Cotterill.

Saunders, who is still very much on a learning curve about the squad he has inherited, saw his side outsmart a team fresh from the Premier League for the majority of the night, and play in a way more suited to the players currently at his disposal.

Sam Hird and Giles Barnes, drafted in from the cold, put their hands up for more regular roles with eye-catching displays.

Pascal Chimbonda made a very promising debut at right back.

Rovers looked more composed and comfortable in a 4-3-3 formation.

But more importantly, Billy was back on the scoresheet.

There have been a few murmurs about Billy’s state of mind since the departure of O’Driscoll - and there are still doubts lingering as to whether he sees his long term future at Doncaster.

Sharp was a close ally of O’Driscoll’s and respected the fact that the departed boss wanted to build a side around him.

Things have been a little different under Saunders, who has wiped the slate clean and tinkered by playing Billy alongside Jon Parkin.

But on Tuesday night Sharp was back where he likes it best - and he was back to somewhere near his best as he ploughed a lone furrow up front.

His first goal since the opening day of the season at Brighton should give him an injection of confidence - and he’ll also be enthused by the type of service he was getting from wide men Kyle Bennett and the recalled Barnes.

Conceding that last gasp Tom Ince goal was like a knife through the heart after arguably the best performance of Saunders’ short reign.

But when the lads sit down and analyse things they’ll realise that the performance provides plenty to build on.

It was important to get the Leeds game out of the system and react positively.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see another positive reaction at Fratton Park on Saturday.

And with Saunders’ positive thinking in mind I’m not sitting on the fence and tipping a draw - I’m going all out for victory.

Portsmouth 1 Rovers 2