WHEN the Doncaster Rovers team coach pulls into the Alexandra Stadium this afternoon, Cedric Evina would be forgiven for drawing a sharp intake of breath.
The defender will need no reminding of the fact that it was in the famous railway town of Crewe where Rovers’ League One survival quest effectively reached the end of the line back in late April, and in bitter fashion, with everyone connected with the club striving for a far more pleasurable afternoon today.
Evina has particular cause to rue events in south Cheshire after a mistake gifted Crewe a leveller just before the break, with Rovers never recovering en route to a thoroughly depressing 3-1 reverse.
The cries of ‘You’re not fit to wear the shirt’ belted out at the end of the game from irate visiting supporters in the direction of a Rovers side who trudged forlornly off the pitch – the sort of moment that can leave scars on players’ memory banks.
Thankfully, Rovers’ opening month to the 2016-17 season, albeit after a quiet start, has taken away some of that pain, with Darren Ferguson’s much-changed side returning to Crewe in a healthy third spot in League Two after three league wins on the spin.
Progress has been made and while it might be hard to forget totally for Evina, it is to his credit that he is determined to move on.
Three points today would certainly aid matters.
Evina said: “It happened last season and it was a mistake.
“I have had to get over it, like a few of the other boys have had to get over different things which happened last year.
“Now is a fresh season and I cannot be going into the game thinking about what happened last season, otherwise it might hold you back.
“You are more prone to making other mistakes if you are thinking about mistakes that you have made before. We do not think about last season, but just Saturday and going there and getting three points.
“That is the one aim.
“Crewe is a game that we go into with confidence, having won our last four games (in all competitions), although we will also respect them.”
Touch wood, the defensive errors and soft concessions which pockmarked Rovers’ calamitous second half of last season – and which stubbornly refused to go away in the first few weeks of the current campaign – are showing signs of being eradicated.
A run of three successive league wins and one goal conceded in their past four matches in all competitions, with three clean sheets recorded, suggests that the afflictions are being ironed out, thanks in no small part to some repetitive defensive drills undertaken by coaching staff at Rovers’ Cantley Park training ground.
Doing those hard yards is serving Rovers well, with Evina playing his part, while even showing his wares as a left-sided centre-half in a three-man defence in Tuesday evening’s EFL Trophy win against near-neighbours Mansfield Town at Field Mill.
Evina said: “We have been working hard defensively. It is good to have that defensive base and in the last few (league) games, it has been good to have that settled back four, which always helps.
“We just want to keep the momentum going.
“It has been down to the hard work and believing in what you are doing.
“When you do that, things seem to happen for you.”
Like Evina, Ferguson is not keen on raking over old coals on the club’s first return to Crewe since that dark day in Spring.
But he is equally candid to acknowledge that a victory today would consign those events to history after one of the toughest days of his managerial career.
Rovers’ manager added: “It is not something that I want to overly focus on because it is gone now.
“But I think if we go there and get a win, it will put it to bed; let us put it that way and that would be nice.
“I do not want to focus on it too much as there is nothing much we can do about it now.
“We just know it was just a really bad day for the club.
“I have been unfortunate enough to get a couple of relegations. One was at Peterborough with (virtually) the last kick of the ball in the Championship and that was tough.
“But that day at Crewe was a tough day for everyone connected with the football club.
“I do not want to go back over old ground, but we failed everyone.
“I would like to think that we are in a different place now.”
Short-term signing Frazer Richardson could make his debut for Rovers this afternoon after linking up with the club earlier this week.