COVENTRY may still be fighting for their lives but Rovers appear to be looking to the future already.
At Middlesbrough on Tuesday night, Saunders deployed a 4-1-4-1 formation with Sam Hird sitting in front of the back four.
Saunders would not be drawn on whether this was a preview of something which may be showcased next season.
But both the manner in which Rovers denied Boro space and the way the five men ahead of Hird played with so much freedom will have given positive reinforcement to Saunders as he left the Riverside.
Several of Rovers’ number from Tuesday night may not be at the club next season, but they each staked a claim for an extended stay – particularly a pair of youngsters.
Gary Woods put in one of his most accomplished performances so far to send a message to Saunders that he may be worth a punt as number one.
And it was good to see James Husband’s first appearance in a Rovers shirt as he played with little fear.
The left back (pictured left) may get an opportunity for his first start this weekend against a Coventry side with one last shot at survival.
A run of seven matches without defeat suggested Andy Thorn’s side might have been the one among the strugglers to survive.
But the 3-1 defeat to an also rejuvenated Bristol City was a major setback and their time in the Championship looks to be coming to an end.
There is a slither of light remaining for the Sky Blues but Rovers will be looking to capitalise on the tension and frustration they will feel as they chase the vital win.
COVENTRY RECENT FORM:
Apr 17 L v Millwall (h) 0-1
Apr 14 D v Burnley (a) 1-1
Apr 9 L v Bristol City (a) 3-1
Apr 7 D v Peterboro’ (h) 2-2
Mar 31 W v Hull City (a) 0-2
Mar 24 W v Portsmouth (h) 2-0
ONE TO WATCH:
PLENTY was expected of Cody McDonald when he made the switch from Norwich last summer.
The striker arrived at the Ricoh Arena on the back of an excellent year on loan at Gillingham were he netted 25 goals in 41 league starts.
The 25-year-old may have initially been behind Lucas Jutkiewicz in the pecking order, but since the big man’s switch to Middlesbrough in January, McDonald has stepped up, scoring important goals in the last ditch attempt to avoid the drop.
HEAD TO HEAD:
Rovers wins 5
Sky Blues wins 6