Rovers’ sinking feeling

Doncaster Rovers v Portsmouth. Billy Sharp scrambles to make contact with a cross into the box astutely defended by the Portmouth defense.
Doncaster Rovers v Portsmouth. Billy Sharp scrambles to make contact with a cross into the box astutely defended by the Portmouth defense.

Every season there’s one team that slips from relative comfort into the relegation mire - and Doncaster are dropping at a rate of knots.

They might have an eight point cushion between themselves and the bottom three.

But if Rovers don’t turn a corner soon they’ll quickly find themselves embroiled in a dogfight for survival.

I hate to be so negative and downbeat.

But as Ipswich gleefully filled their boots on Tuesday night - a contender for one of the most embarrassing nights in Rovers’ history - Doncaster looked every inch a team heading for trouble.

When Rovers flirted with the drop during their first season in the Championship they were at least playing good football week in, week out - and not getting the results they deserved.

But they stuck to their guns and their quality on the ball told in the end.

This time around they’re heading into the business end of the campaign on the back of a quite shocking run of results and form, nursing an injury list that just refuses to subside.

The stats speak for themselves: one win in ten, one goal scored in the last five - a Michael Duff own goal.

Rovers aren’t just failing to get results either - they’re not performing anywhere near the standard of the previous two seasons.

As odd as it sounds, however, there were certain aspects of Tuesday’s display which were significantly better then Saturday’s dire showing against Portsmouth.

Rovers played with a lively tempo against the Tractor Boys and popped a few passes around, albeit sporadically.

But if they continue to concede goals in the manner in which they did - and continue to look so toothless in the final third - then a relegation battle looms.

And, somewhat worryingly, I’m starting to wonder if Doncaster are up for the fight?

When Rovers concede there seems to be a collective ‘here we go again’ mindset among the players.

Confidence is at rock bottom.

And it’s the basic unforced errors which need to be collectively eradicated if confidence levels are to be restored to those evident in early January - when Doncaster looked more likely to be challenging at the other end of the Championship.

I’ve seen more heavy touches and misplaced places in the last few weeks than I’ve seen in total since Rovers stepped up to the Championship.

But it’s the errors at the back that are costing Doncaster dearly.

It’s heart-in-your-mouth time every time Rovers concede a set piece in a dangerous area - and it’s time that a few bodies were put on the line in defending them.

Rovers face two daunting trips over the next week but, if they can let their football do the talking and defend properly, don’t rule out a response from Sean O’Driscoll’s men.

They’ll be hurting after Tuesday night and at least against Swansea and Norwich they’ll face two footballing sides - unlike the Pompey team that seemed to bully Rovers last weekend.

It’s hard to see the poor run ending though.

Swansea 1 Rovers 0

Norwich 2 Rovers 1