Why Doncaster Rovers and their manager cannot afford an FA Cup slip-up this weekend: Liam Hoden column
FA Cup first round day may not hold the significance it once did but this one is certainly important for Doncaster Rovers.
Given their disappointing and continually stuttered start to the season, their trip to Scunthorpe United is not a chance for experimentation or an opportunity to relax without the pressure of the need for league results.
Rovers really need to win on Saturday. And they need to do so with a strong performance.
The reasons for which are plentiful, if players and manager are to convince they have the stomach, the ability and the smarts to manoeuvre the club out of the position in which it currently finds itself.
Even the most hardy and calm-headed of supporters are beginning to have doubts on that issue.
A feckless, woeful outing at Charlton Athletic dumped fresh mud on the green shoots of positivity that had strained to push themselves through the earth since the last international break.
And a struggle of a first half followed by a lack of quality in the second at bottom side Crewe Alexandra a few days later was hardly the confidence-boosting demonstration that was required.
Richie Wellens and his squad are falling evermore outside of the good graces of an increasingly doubtful fanbase.
And do not fall into the trap of thinking the notoriously patient hierarchy at Rovers have not discussed the current situation with some concern, particularly in light of the horrendous performance at The Valley and the less-than-convincing follow-up at Gresty Road.
We have reached the stage where a bad result this weekend - particularly if it comes via a poor performance against another struggling opponent - may well force more formal conversations behind-the-scenes on the future direction.
That is not to say Wellens is necessarily on borrowed time in the Rovers hotseat.
But, should things not go well this weekend, the Rovers boss will undoubtedly have tough questions to answer from his employers.
And he will need to do so convincingly if he is to retain the faith that has been placed in him to usher in a new era at the club over the coming years, particularly with a crucial transfer window fast approaching.
This weekend will certainly have an influence on that transfer window in financial terms.
Progression in the FA Cup is on the list of projected income for the club, all of which ties into the playing budget.
Those reaching the third round will be guaranteed close to £60,000 in prize money alone, which is a significant sum of money to aid the transfer cause in the New Year which Wellens has consistently emphasised the importance of.
In the storied history of the competition, there has been plenty of quite brutal proof that there are no gimmies and no givens in football.
But that does not detract from the fact there are games that teams should win - and this is one of those for Rovers.
A team rock bottom of the division below, who have won one in ten in the league, are exactly the sort of prey that should be approached with bared teeth and frothing mouths.
After the hard work and battle that has unfortunately been a regular topic of conversation recently, Rovers need to demonstrate real ruthlessness to show their quality in possession, make it count in the final third and not be as feeble defensively as they have been.
Keith Hill’s arrival as Iron boss on Friday has changed the situation slightly but few would suggest Scunthorpe are much further down the table than what was expected of them before a ball was kicked.
For Rovers, with this game in particular there are no excuses that will cut it.
And they simply cannot afford to lose.