The Pauls of Dickov and Keegan treated the assembled media to a version of FA Cup ‘good cop, bad cop’ ahead of Doncaster Rovers’ third-round replay at Bristol City tonight.
Dickov was the ‘good cop’, giving the hacks and radio men a few positive soundbites about the magnitude of the opportunity presenting itself to Rovers, should they prevail against League One leaders Bristol City at Ashton Gate.
But before that, ‘bad cop’ Keegan struck a more cautious tone when asked for his thoughts on the prospect of a fourth-round tie live on television against either Everton or West Ham.
“It’s a massive game for whoever goes through, but we’re not even thinking about that,” he said, reading straight from a chapter in the footballers’ manual titled ‘Pragmatism’.
“Our focus just has to be on the Bristol game. This is a big game as it is. We’ll worry about that if we get through.
“They’re on a good run. They play good football. But I think if anyone was at the game at the Keepmoat, we showed that we’re more than a match for them.
“We’ll take confidence from that and try to beat them. They will be thinking they’ve come here, got the draw and they’ll turn us over at their place. We’re just focusing on that game and whatever comes after is great.”
Dickov himself is by no means planning what suit to wear for a big day on TV and he will have been pleased to hear his players are not getting distracted by the prize on offer tonight.
Rovers are underdogs against a team that have lost only twice at Ashton Gate and have topped League One since the first day of the 2014-15 campaign. Doncaster, though, have not been beaten for nine games on the road, and are playing a formation that suits their players, and in particular, defensive midfielder Keegan.
Scratch beneath the surface and the 30-year-old reveals a little more confidence than he originally portrayed.
“We’ve tinkered with the formation to play a 4-1-4-1,” he said.
“I think it suits me in some respects, protecting the back four and helping them, which allows the players further forward to play and score goals.
“I think our shape has been a lot better in recent games and that’s what has got us moving up the table.
“I’m there just to protect the back four. A lot of teams are playing men in the hole so there’s usually someone there to look after. It gives people the license to go forward. I’ve played there a lot and I understand the position very well.”
Keegan could have had a goal himself on Saturday before leaving that responsibility to Nathan Tyson and James Coppinger to salvage an unlikely draw at Oldham.
“That’s down to drive and determination, and it’s spirit as well,” said Keegan, who won the Irish Cup with Bohemians back in 2008.
“You saw when we scored the goal the togetherness we have. Everyone is trying to achieve the one thing here which is getting results to get us up the table.
“The spirit we have has been brilliant and we’ve just got to keep winning games.”
As well as a lucrative fourth-round tie on television, Rovers are also motivated tonight to avenge a 3-0 defeat at Ashton Gate in the league, and the 1-1 draw at the Keepmoat 10 days ago that forced tonight’s replay.
“We should have gone on and won the home game,” added Keegan. “We have a second chance to put it right – and we owe them one for the defeat in the league.”