Doncaster Rovers set for pivotal February
By quirk of the fixtures computer Doncaster Rovers have three consecutive derby matches during the month of February.
And by an even greater twist of fate, February will be the month when Rovers determine whether or not they are capable of surging into the top six.
Right now, the outlook is not particularly bright for Rovers’ play off aspirations.
Results during their weekend without action saw them drop to 16th in the table while still remaining eight points off sixth spot. Dropped points against Fleetwood Town and Port Vale hardly helped the cause.
It feels safe to suggest that a couple more defeats this month will all but end Rovers’ play-off aspirations for another season. Not only is the points gap already an imposing one, the sheer number of clubs sitting between them and sixth spot means relying on others slipping up is futile.
So the month ahead truly is do or die for Darren Ferguson’s men.
Not only does February see trips to Scunthorpe and Barnsley sandwich a home clash with Sheffield United, it is also book-ended with matches against sides currently in the top six.
Ending with sixth placed Millwall, the month begins tomorrow with the visit of Walsall to the Keepmoat, a side currently third in the table.
Speaking prior to the defeat to Port Vale last Tuesday, Darren Ferguson had called on his side to arrive at the run of derbies in a strong position.
After losing to Vale, their only hope of doing so is through a strong performance and result against Walsall, managed by former Rovers boss Sean O’Driscoll.
Ferguson also hopes to see a large crowd at the Keepmoat for the Sheffield United game and knows a good couple of results before then will help the cause no end.
“It’s three derbies this month and big games as well,” he said.
“We’ve got to try to make sure we’re in as good a position as possible before they arrive.
“They’re all tough games but obviously the one at home is in particular.
“The Sheffield United game does take care of itself.
“I don’t think I’m really going to have to give a massive team talk for that one.
“We’d like to be in a position before that arrives to have real positive results which would generate another large crowd at home.
“But we’ve got a lot of work to do before then.”
It would be a shame for the season to peter out so early - though to ignore the fact Rovers are the same distance away from the bottom four as they are the top six would be foolhardy.
As Ferguson so rightly says, there is still a lot of work to do for this side.
Hopefully it is work that will see them looking up by the end of their pivotal month rather than glancing nervously over their shoulder.
February will not be easy. But is should be a great deal of fun.