NERVY business ends of seasons competing for promotion is something that Steve Evans knows a fair bit about, including its pitfalls.
The Scot takes his Rotherham United side to Teesside today, with some survival respite provided by the Bank Holiday Monday win over Brighton, which has moved the Millers seven points clear of the Championship drop zone.
While the Millers are not yet safe, it is the hosts who will be under the microscope, mindful that victory is absolutely imperative if they are to keep their top-two hopes intact, more especially with huge games next week against Wolves and Norwich City.
The home punters at the Riverside will be demanding and expecting three points and a reaction to Monday’s disappointing loss at Watford, and for Evans, adding to Boro’s anxiety and preying on the nerves of the Boro faithful will be part of his side’s game management.
Evans said: “We know we have pressure, but the pressure on them will be incredible.
“We have been at the top end of leagues fighting for promotions last season and the season before and I know what it is like.
“The longer you go and you are not in front or only one in front, it is a problem because the opposition can go grab a goal. When we have players like Derbyshire, Bowery and Ward back available, then we are more than capable of always scoring a goal.
“We will set up, not only to frustrate them, but play with a purpose and try and force them back.
“We have some good players and if they play at their best, we know we can give them a game.”
Boro are without captain Grant Leadbitter, with Adam Forshaw likely to get the nod in midfield.
Despite their sobering loss at Watford which dropped them from top spot to fourth, head coach Aitor Karanka has called for calm and positivity ahead of his side’s final five games.
He said: “I’m calm. I think everyone would’ve taken this position at the start of the season, we have five games to go and we are in a very good position.
“I hope we’ve learned from the Watford game and this season whenever we’ve had a difficult defeat the following game has always been good.
“The first thing I’d say is to be positive and optimistic because since I first signed my contract here I’ve been thinking about operating in the Premier League with Boro.
“This is my job and objective and I’m working every day to get it.”