Saunders: The scars are still showing

El Hadji Diouf leads the celebrations after Rovers went 2-0 up at Elland Road. Picture: Steve Uttley
El Hadji Diouf leads the celebrations after Rovers went 2-0 up at Elland Road. Picture: Steve Uttley

DEAN Saunders has defended the Doncaster players that became embroiled in an ugly tunnel bust-up at Elland Road - and says at least it shows that they care.

Rovers and Leeds United could still face action from the Football Association and West Yorkshire Police over the incident.

But Saunders has played down the clash which cast a shadow over the home side’s dramatic 3-2 win.

He also told the Free Press he is more concerned about the mental scars his players are bearing from a painful last 14 months in the Championship.

Saunders said: “It was nothing more than a bit of pushing and shoving. Things like this happen in football.

“The policewoman who was in the tunnel probably pushed the panic button.

“There were a few little break-away groups and it took a while for things to calm down.

“But it was just one of those things.

“People get upset. From our lads’ point of view there was probably a bit of frustration about how we lost the game.

“There is a line that you do not cross, of course there is,” he added.

“But I would rather people show a bit of passion than come in the dressing room like quiet boys, get a shower and go home.

“We’re in a situation where we are scrapping for points and to end up losing in the way we did on Saturday was a bitter pill to swallow.”

Luciano Becchio’s winning goal in the ninth minute of stoppage time condemned Doncaster to an 18th defeat out of 30 this season.

Since January 1, 2011, Rovers have lost 31 out of 55 in the Championship - and Saunders admits certain players are struggling to shake-off the losing mentality.

“When the team has been losing for as long as it has been, it leaves scars on them,” he said.

“When you’ve got a winning mentality, you go on and win games like Saturday three or four nil.

“But when Leeds scored their first goal you could see the doubts starting to creep in among some of the lads.

“Those memories of losing come flooding back and it starts to affect their decision making.

“It’s my job to change that,” he added.

“That’s why I made a few changes to the team.

“What I can’t do is keep on saying the same things over and over again to the same players.

“They need to learn from their mistakes - otherwise I’ll find someone else to take their place in the team.”

West Yorkshire Police are continuing their investigation into Saturday’s tunnel bust-up.

An FA spokesperson also confirmed to the Free Press that they will be launching their own investigation.