Doncaster Rovers: Mental issues behind home failings according to Stewart
Cameron Stewart believes Rovers' long-running struggles on home soil can be put down to mental issues rather than quality on the pitch.
Prior to Tuesday night’s trio of fixtures in League One, only five teams had picked up fewer points at home than Rovers this season, all of which featured in the division’s bottom six at the start of the week.
And if they are to ensure their current brush with the danger zone is merely a brief flirtation, it is clear their home form must improve – and fast.
Winger Stewart admits Rovers, following their poor run, need to rediscover their confidence – and particularly so at home.
“I think it’s more of a mental thing and a confidence thing, which we have got to try to put right,” Stewart said.
“I think the way the gaffer wants us to play, we’ll always try to dominate possession whether we’re at home or away.
“Away from home it’s a different mentality and everyone is thinking that to a certain degree than we’re at home, you can see that in results and performances.
“It’s something we’ve got to get over as a team and I’m sure we’ve addressed that on the training pitch and in meetings so we’ll move on from there.
“Confidence has been a little bit low which it shouldn’t have been. Performances haven’t been great at home, they’ve been better away so I think it’s time to move it on.”
Stewart believes the pressure on the team is heightened at the Keepmoat, not just to win but also in an attractive manner.
Since his arrival, Darren Ferguson has put major emphasis on possession football and swift attacking play.
And Stewart admits the players feel a pressure themselves to deliver thrilling performances.
“When you’re at home, expectations are a little bit different,” he said.
“We maybe put a bit more pressure on ourselves to perform in a different way, so maybe that is affecting us.
“At home we think about keeping the ball, having possession, dominating the game.
“Away from home it’s a bit different, you can be more of the underdog even though we don’t see ourselves as that.
“Sometimes you might have a different game plan.”
Saturday’s loss at Barnsley – which saw Rovers drop to just three points clear of the bottom four – was only their first away defeat since October 27, Ferguson’s third game in charge.
The opponents that day were Saturday’s visitors Millwall, who will arrive in Doncaster this weekend with the division’s second best away record.
The visit of Millwall to the Keepmoat is the first of seven remaining home games and the beginning of the hunt for the 14 or so points that will secure League One status.
Unlike Neil Harris’ side – who head to the Keepmoat inside the top six – Rovers do not have the back up of superb away form to aid a climb up the table.
Of Millwall’s 53 points, 30 have come on the road. In contrast, Rovers have claimed 16 of their 36 points away from home, the seventh worst haul in the division.
Understandably so, home form remains the biggest concern. Even though it has declined in importance in recent years, clubs are still expected to have the advantage on home turf.
That seems to be a problem for Rovers, who have conceded that advantage in three of the last four seasons.
Just 44 per cent of the 61 points won last season were done at the Keepmoat. Even in the League One title winning campaign of 2012/13, Rovers only earned 42 per cent of their points at home.
This season could buck the trend. Currently 56 per cent of Rovers’ 36 points have come at home.
Boosting both figures in that previous sentence should ensure a much less nervy end to the campaign than it right now looks set to be.