• Adam Stubbings

Hot & Cold Rovers Look To Bury Their Demons Tomorrow

Updated: Jul 16, 2019


Frightful October

It feels a case of one step forward, one step back time after time with Doncaster Rovers these days. A good win gives rise to optimism and evidence that the team can compete in League One, then a poor defeat keeps following it, bringing everyone back down to earth and sending the more morbid among us right through the ground into the pit below. The manner of the victory over Southend was refreshing, coming from a goal down to assert a quality on our opponents that we know we possess yet rarely demonstrate currently, and doing it with a back-drop of extremely questionabl refereeing too. Likewise, ten days later when Kenny Jackett brought his talented Portsmouth side to DN4, a decisive opening salvo won us the game inside 5 minutes, and we kept a solid footballing side at bay for the rest of the game bar one goalkeeping calamity.

Somehow though, following both of those wins were bad defeats. First, a 1-0 loss at Charlton that, on the face of it, wasn’t too bad a result. The Addicks are in the top six and in Karl Robinson have one of the more noticeably astute managers in the third tier, but a rudderless Rovers again fell victim to mistakes that have been repeating for months – namely standing off to allow midfielders the time and space to pick their spots – and came away empty handed. Last Saturday against Walsall, it was all going fine until a bad defensive error by the usually formidable Joe Wright presented the Saddlers with the lead, and to a man the Rovers side lost their heads completely, shipping two more extremely soft goals and causing the home fans to go home with more than a few words of criticism for the manager after his bizarre, worrying disappearing act throughout that collapse.

Now, we sign the month off with a trip to Bury, one of the few sides currently sat below us in the table and with an even bigger air of disgruntlement surrounding their club. This is a chance to follow up a bad loss with an encouraging win, something we have managed to do twice in the last few weeks, but with perhaps a bigger sense of urgency about it for the manager stood in both dugouts.

Clark’s No Superman

Bury boss Lee Clark is very much under fire for presiding over the Shakers’ fall into the relegation zone. Bury superbly saw off Bradford City 3-1 in their last home game, but since then have gone on the road for three successive League One fixtures and come away from that spell with zero points. Defeats at Blackpool and Southend were compounded on Tuesday night when former Rovers star Richie Wellens pulled off another victory to continue his impressive start as Oldham manager, seeing off their Lancashire rivals 2-1 to move ahead of us in the table and keep both Bury and the drop zone an arms-length of three points behind us.

Mr. Clark is no stranger at all to Rovers fans for a couple of reasons. He was reportedly on the shortlist to become the new manager at the club in 2015 prior to the appointment of Darren Ferguson, with some bookmakers making him joint favourite for the post along with Fergie in the week prior to the Scot coming on board. Before that, Clark made sure he was never likely to be popular in these parts due to the egregious manner in which he celebrated keeping Birmingham City in the Championship at our expense by the smallest of margins in 2013/14. I for one will never forget watching the footage of that gurning face sprinting down the touchline, saluting the Brum fans who could barely stand him after Paul Caddis’ injury-time goal against Bolton sealed the point that was enough to confirm their survival and send us down on goal difference thanks to a dubious penalty call cost us a point at Leicester. Let us not forget that this was Clark scraping survival for a very big team finishing in their lowest league position for almost 20 years, and indeed his incompetence in the post, just enough to prove less inept than our own boss at the time Paul Dickov, cost him his job mere months later.

The Bottom Line

This is as much a “six-pointer” as games at this stage of the season can get, with the pressure right on both Clark and Ferguson and defeat surely a sign of impending doom for the job prospects of whichever man is unfortunate enough to come out on the losing side. It’s a golden opportunity for Rovers to put right the wrongs of last week and start to build some much-needed momentum, and both gaffer and players will not need reminding that defeat could very easily leave us in the bottom three going into a rather tough November schedule that starts with a hotly anticipated local derby against Rotherham and takes in trips back west to Fleetwood and high-flying Wigan before signing off with a home game against Milton Keynes Dons.

In truth, a win at Gigg Lane tomorrow may not be enough to keep Ferguson clear of discussions over his position. Each of the next three games are all ones that he surely cannot afford to lose, for different reasons. A Twitter poll conducted by our own page last weekend immediately after the Walsall game, for what little that is worth, came out with 37% of respondents calling for his head right there and then, with 30% willing to give him until the Rotherham game to turn things around. Defeat in that game, live on Sky against our fiercest rivals, will surely be unforgiveable even if a good win against Bury can be achieved, whilst the result of our potential banana-skin FA Cup tie at non-league Ebbsfleet United next Saturday may also factor in too.

Make or break time for Fergie, and certainly for Bury boss Clark, means one thing is certain in tomorrow’s game: the stakes are high, and the price for failure may just be unaffordable in every way possible.



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