Rovers analysis: Time for two steps forward, not back

Conor Grant and James Coppinger
Conor Grant and James Coppinger

Very little to gain and absolutely everything to lose.

That is usually the scenario for any league club that comes up against non-league opposition.

But this Saturday’s FA Cup first round tie at home to Stalybridge Celtic is slightly different for Doncaster Rovers - because victory against the National League North outfit could finally get Rovers’ season up and running.

After an energetic and also entertaining display in the win at home to Colchester last weekend, the last thing Darren Ferguson or Doncaster need right now is to become the victims of a giantkilling. It would be a serious momentum killer.

It was one step forward and then two back following the high of Shrewsbury and the lows of Peterborough and Millwall. Now Rovers cannot afford a repeat.

And while they are fully expected to see off Celtic, another win will only add to the positivity and confidence that seemed to be brewing on and off the pitch during that second half against Colchester.

The levels of self-belief in the Rovers squad have had to be picked up off the floor by Ferguson since he came in and there were definite signs last weekend that the Scot’s attacking principles, and also his penchant for young, quick, athletic players, could potentially turn this season on its head, or at least arrest Doncaster’s slide.

And were Rovers to record back-to-back wins for the first time this season, it would set them up beautifully for what looks like a trio of very winnable games coming up against Blackpool, Rochdale and Chesterfield.

Having put his faith in Mitchell Lund as the right-sided centre back of a three, it will be interesting to see where Brazilian right back Felipe Mattioni fits in.

Equally impressive as Lund was Mattioni’s fellow Evertonian Conor Grant, whose ‘good left foot’ has so far lived up to its reputation - and it is that central midfield area where Rovers should have too much quality for their non-league counterparts.