Saunders: Keep on believing

Rovers' Fredric Piquionne celebrates his early goal against Birmingham. Picture: Andrew Roe
Rovers' Fredric Piquionne celebrates his early goal against Birmingham. Picture: Andrew Roe

DEAN Saunders says his side must keep on believing they can rip up the form book and retain their Championship status.

Rock bottom Rovers have won just twice since the turn of the year and are without a victory in seven as they prepare for a potentially decisive Easter double-header with Leicester City and Burnley.

But Saunders, who is sweating on the fitness of several players ahead of Saturday’s trip to the King Power Stadium, is adamant his side can win four out of six to avoid a return to League One.

Saunders said: “I won’t allow any of the players to think that we can’t stay up.

“We were all really disappointed by the Birmingham result because we played well and had two great chances to go ahead at the start of the second half.

“But we have two big games this weekend and we have to stay positive.

“If we can win them both then we’re right back in it - that’s the way we’ve got to look at it.

“Any team in this division is capable of winning four games on the trot and we have to keep on believing we can do that.

“We’ve been playing well enough - we just need a bit of luck and the lads need to step up to the plate.”

Saunders bemoaned the fact he has been unable to name a consistent back four during March when he spoke to the Free Press this week - and said it was again a factor on Friday when poor defending paved the way for Birmingham’s 3-1 victory.

Rovers’ boss rates Pascal Chimbonda, Shelton Martis, Paul Keegan and Freddie Piquionne as “touch and go” for Saturday, although Habib Beye will continue to play despite nursing an ankle problem.

Brian Stock could be set to hand Saunders a major boost after he came through 45 minutes of a practice game with Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday.

Stock, who has returned to training after suffering a tear in his groin, is unlikely to feature this weekend but is expected, along with Martin Woods and Habib Bamogo, to return before the end of the season.

Saunders, meanwhile, is refusing to look too far ahead as the club gears up for a very busy summer - with approximately half of the current first team squad out of contract come May.

“We need to know which league we’re in before I can start planning for next season,” said Saunders.

“I’ve put the issue of contracts to bed - we’re all focussed on the job in hand which is trying to stay in this division.”

Saunders is poised to hold talks with Frederic Piquionne about extending his loan stay at the Keepmoat Stadium.

The West Ham striker’s loan spell is due to expire after Monday’s game with Burnley.