The rolling rock of decline is not unstoppable yet but it is gathering pace at a worrying rate: Liam Hoden's Doncaster Rovers column

There is an increasing feeling of helplessness about Doncaster Rovers at the moment - and it has been felt before.

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 11:30 am
Updated Thursday, 1st April 2021, 11:33 am

As Rovers slid to an unthinkable relegation to League Two in 2016, it seemed there was nothing they could do to alter their fortunes.

A side that had powered into play-off contention in just a couple of months under Darren Ferguson soon found itself on an unstoppable decline.

Lady luck evaded them. They worked hard but never quite produced what they needed. They found themselves on the wrong side of fine margins week after week.

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Andy Butler gives instructions to his players at MK Dons

Not for one minute am I suggesting that this Rovers side are in for the same fate. Nor do I expect the decline to continue so drastically between now and May 8.

But there are worrying similarities between the situations of now and five years ago that are severely eroding confidence of Rovers’ ability to address their current form.

On Saturday at MK Dons the concern was the flatness in attack, the lack of creative spark which again reared its head. Though the hosts had the better of the play, there was very little in the game and a more fluid, confident performance from Rovers would likely have seen them return home with something for their efforts.

With each passing game, the pressure to produce only mounts and - like it did in 2016 - it has a considerable impact on the side’s ability to deliver.

And the opportunity to alter fortunes only narrows.

But there is a genuine opportunity to get back on track over the next fortnight. After a tough run of games against form sides in the division, there are fixtures ahead that look much more winnable - IF they are approached with the right mentality from the group.

The squad is beginning to look healthier again too. Injuries to both Omar Bogle and John Bostock set them back several spaces on the game board after the excellent progress both had made following their arrivals at the club.

As they get back up to speed, their influence in the side should only grow and their contributions will hand opportunities to others around them.

Matt Smith was a huge miss at MK Dons as he spent a productive spell away on international duty with Wales. He will be raring to go again against Charlton on Friday and keen to revive his promising partnership with Bostock in the heart of midfield.

Rovers are not a million miles away from clicking back into gear. The situation is not hopeless just yet.

Ferguson proclaimed emphatically in February 2016 that Rovers would not be relegated. At that point he seemed fully justified in his assertion because a continuation of a decline which began in early January was unthinkable.

But the boulder rolling down the hill was only gathering speed with each passing week until it became unstoppable.

This season’s giant rock of decline is not yet unstoppable but its momentum is concerning.

What it needs is a collective effort to stop the boulder. It needs bravery to face it head on. Risk-takers need to step forward and take up the mantle.

And there is no time to lose.

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In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden editor.