DONCASTER ROVERS: Bright start can cure home sickness

IT might be a cliche but the first goal is always crucial, writes Paul Goodwin.

For Doncaster Rovers, however, it is a lot more than mere rhetoric.

This regimented Rovers outfit - marshalled brilliantly by Rob Jones - seem to relish the prospect of nudging themselves ahead and then holding on for their dear lives.

And the stats speak for themselves. Every time Rovers have scored the first goal this season, they have won.

The problem is, they seem much more adept at doing it away from home.

On seven occasions, no less, have Doncaster gone away this season, scored the first goal and ended up winning the game.

In comparison, at the Keepmoat Stadium they have done it just once, a hard earned 1-0 win against Shrewsbury courtesy of Billy Paynter’s early spot-kick.

So why the disparity? Clearly Rovers are not starting games well enough on home soil.

The library-like Lakeside atmosphere hardly helps.

And when Rovers fail to burst out of the blocks and put visiting teams under pressure, that only adds to supporters’ anxiety and frustration.

Dean Saunders has built from the back and the quirk of that process appears to be the discrepancy between home and away form.

Away from home, deep-sitting midfielders James Harper and either Paul Keegan or Sammy Clingan can focus on being a defensive shield. At home, there is more onus on those players to dictate the tempo and pick a pass.

Rovers appear to be over-reliant on wideboys David Cotterill and Kyle Bennett for a creative spark.

If they don’t fire, or are absent, Rovers seem to lack a cutting edge.

What they should not lack in Saturday’s M180 derby is a desire to get on the front foot from the word go and to get at Scunthorpe.

If they do that this weekend in the biggest home game of the season to date, and score first, you certainly wouldn’t bet against Doncaster curing their home sickness at the best possible time.

Prediction: Rovers 2 Scunthorpe 1