Make no mistake about it, this Doncaster Rovers squad believe they have enough in their locker to finish in the top six.
Now they have eight games left to prove it on the pitch.
Man of the match Curtis Main admitted as much, after inspiring a stunning second half comeback at the Ricoh Arena which kept Doncaster clinging onto the coattails of the play-off positions.
The much-improved Main was at his belligerent, robust best at a point in the season when it was critical that Doncaster rolled their sleeves up and showed some true grit.
Trailing 1-0 to the relegation-threatened Sky Blues at the break, there had barely been a whimper from a Rovers team reeling from an unjust defeat to Swindon in midweek, desperately requiring a win of some description to keep their season and top six chase alive.
It’s fair to say that an almighty half time rollicking from Paul Dickov woke Doncaster up from their dozy start which saw them fall behind to an early goal for the sixth time in their last nine outings.
The way Dominic Samuel almost helped himself to a fifth minute opener was symptomatic of a Rovers team perhaps feeling a bit sorry for themselves after taking just two points from their four previous games this month.
But, as Main hinted, his teammates just needed to take a good, long hard look around the dressing room during the interval to know they were capable of so much more.
And whatever was said or done at half time clearly resonated as Doncaster burst out of the blocks with renewed drive and determination, quickly levelled through Richie Wellens, before goals from substitutes Jonson Clarke-Harris and Harry Forrester – both sparked by Main’s sheer industry and persistence – ended a run of four games without a win and kept Rovers firmly in the promotion picture.
“There were a few choice words said at half time,” admitted the in-form Main.
“We had to take a look at ourselves and say ‘are they better than us?’
“You go in 1-0 down at half time from a sloppy goal, you haven’t been outplayed, you haven’t been outclassed, just look around and say ‘why can’t you go and turn it around?’
“That second half performance was the response.
“At the start of a game, or when we come in at half time, you look at the opposition and we look around the dressing room and we think we’re a good side,” he added, pointing to that inward belief within the Doncaster ranks.
“We’ve got good players, there’s talent in here, hard workers, there’s everything you need in a team. So there’s no reason why we can’t be up there challenging for the play-offs. The league is so tight.
“We’ve just to take it one game at a time and see where that takes us. Every game is a huge game for us now.”
Main quite rightly left the field in stoppage time to a standing ovation from the small pocket of Rovers fans who had travelled to the impressive Ricoh Arena probably more in hope rather than expectation after a bad week at the Keepmoat Stadium.
That double defeat to Peterborough and Swindon had knocked Doncaster down to 12th in the table, and when the Rovers defence parted like the Red Sea for Samuel to stride through and lash home past Stephen Bywater after just five minutes, those fans must have feared that their side’s ailing confidence and momentum was about to suffer a potentially terminal blow.
There were certainly few signs of the recovery that was about to follow during the remainder of a first half for Rovers which saw Abdul Razak taken off before he was sent off, prompting an early switch from 4-1-4-1 to 4-4-2, and Nathan Tyson miss a rather gilt-edged chance in the box after some good hold-up play from Main.
Dickov’s men did, however, improve as the half wore on, their main threat coming down the right from marauding full back Reece Wabara and Kyle Bennett.
Coventry, on the other hand, looked a threat whenever Samuel became involved in the final third.
Good work from Frank Nouble down the left caused Andy Butler to divert one onto his own post, before Samuel tested Bywater’s handling from distance.
The second half could not have been more different. From the first whistle, Rovers had more intent, purpose and tempo to their play.
They were soon level after Wellens linked up superbly with Tyson before planting his shot past Lee Burge. From that point on there seem destined to be only one winner.
As City went into their shells, Doncaster puffed out their chests – nobody more so than Main.
His pressure forced the mistake which led to Clarke-Harris opening his Doncaster account, stroking home the rebound after Burge had blocked his initial attempt.
The one-way traffic continued and Rovers wrapped up the points in the closing stages, thanks again to some tenacious play from Main on the right flank. His power and poise saw him get to the by-line before picking out Forrester who gratefully converted his ninth goal of the season.
After a largely forgettable first half display, it was a second half that served as a very timely reminder of what this Rovers team can do – not that they seem to lack self doubt, as Main’s comments would indicate.
It’s one thing thinking you’re a decent side, another thing entirely proving it though.
Doncaster’s last eight games include a trip to automatic promotion chasers MK Dons on Saturday and four clashes with teams still in the hunt for the play-offs. Now would be a great time to turn words and thoughts into actions.
Rovers (4-1-4-1): Bywater 6; Wabara 7, McCullough 6, Butler 6, Stevens 6; Furman 7; Wellens 7, Razak 5 (Forrester 23, 6), Bennett 6, Tyson 6 (Clarke-Harris 61, 6), Main 8 (Robinson 90). Subs: Marosi, McCombe, Evina, Middleton.
Coventry (4-5-1): Burge 6; Willis 6, Pennington 6, Martin 6, Stokes 5; Fleck 6, Ward 6, Barton 5 (Odelusi 46, 5), O’Brien 6 (Jackson 79), Nouble 6 (Phillips 69); Samuel 7.
Subs: Charles-Cook, Webster, Finch, Turgott.
Curtis Main might not have got among the scorers but his performance epitomised the sort of fighting spirit that Doncaster will have to show from now on in to finish in the top six. He was starved of the ball before the interval but still supplied Tyson with the best chance of the half, before his dedication and perseverance set up goals for Clarke-Harris and Forrester. Doncaster’s fans appreciated Main’s efforts – they’re starting to see the best of him now.
That Rovers almost immediately equalised after the re-start through Wellens proved to be crucial as the pendulum completely swung in their favour. It was a nice take from Wellens, and the goal galvanised Doncaster while also knocking the stuffing out of a Coventry team that proceeded to fall to pieces. Goals change games and this one certainly did; there was to be only one winner once Rovers had got themselves levels.
After suffering back-to-back home defeats it was just typical that Doncaster should go away and win their eighth league game on the road this season to keep their play-off dream alive. The goal they conceded was a gift and to improve on their current ninth position, Rovers must batten down the hatches as they continue to ship soft goals. But if they show more of the spirit they displayed in the second half here they can finish the season with a flourish. Tactically, Doncaster looked far more potent and comfortable when they switched to 4-4-2.
“In the second half I thought everybody was outstanding. It’s one of the best all-round team performances since I’ve been here, the second half.
“You talk about giving yourself a chance in games and after four minutes our centre halves went AWOL. They then had a little bit of pressure but leading into half time I felt we were going to score.
“I got into them a little bit at half time and I just wanted to make them realise what a chance they’ve got, and not to throw that away.
“In the second half, led by Curtis Main up top who I thought was outstanding, we got the result that we deserved.”
“I think we started the game extremely well, but in the last 15 minutes of the first half we stopped doing the things we were good at. The start of the second half was as poor a start as I’ve seen.
“But after a decent first half, maybe a few started to believe that we were better than we are, and we paid for it. It was disappointing after such a good start; we were unrecognisable in the second half.”
Carl Boyeson was over-eager with his yellow card – much to the detriment of Abdul Razak, whose short Rovers career seems to drift from one disappointment to the next.