Doncaster Rovers v Shrewsbury Town - Rovers go in search of elusive winning mentality

THE quiet life is something that Craig Alcock has rarely been afforded at the tail-end of footballing seasons in his career so far.

Doncaster Rovers' Craig Alcock. Picture James Hardisty.

And if Doncaster Rovers don’t get their act together quickly, it will be a familiar script for the Cornishman.

Even if he was handed the luxury of a stress-free end to a campaign playing for a team in the safe waters of mid-table in the closing weeks, the diligent defender is not the sort of professional to metaphorically have an ‘on the beach’ mentality as others may do.

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But maybe having a bit of pressure off would be a nice novelty.

Doncaster Rovers' manager Darren Ferguson. Picture: Tony Johnson.

As it stands, Alcock is minded to turn his attentions towards doing his bit to help Rovers find shelter due to their recent descent which could result in a second relegation in three seasons if things are not arrested.

Rovers, eight games without a League One success and displaying deficiencies in both boxes, look vulnerable – and are just two places and two points above the bottom four, heading into today’s home game with fellow strugglers Shrewsbury Town, which is the proverbial six-pointer.

The tension is rising ahead of the business end of the season, but Alcock has seen and done it all before – from play-off pushes with Sheffield United and Peterborough in the past few seasons to a relegation battle with Posh in 2012-13 which ended in final-day despair – Yorkshire duo Barnsley and Huddersfield Town survived in the Championship.

The 28-year-old has experienced plenty more besides as well.

Doncaster Rovers' manager Darren Ferguson. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Almost a footballing version of ‘The Knowledge’ when it comes to end-of-season experiences.

He said: “I have experienced getting in the play-offs on the last day to missing out.

“But also there has been relegation and missing out on relegation on the last day.

“I have gone through all the emotions and can hopefully pass on that little bit of experience to the younger lads. Whatever we go through in the future, first and foremost, the priority is to make sure we stay in the league.

“At Yeovil, I have been bottom on Christmas Day a few times and then we have always got out of it. Touch wood, it’s the same situation here.

“The main thing is that it is in our own hands and we aren’t relying on others and stuff like that. We only have ourselves to blame if we don’t get out of it.

“I spent my early part of my career at Yeovil being in this situation a lot. It’s nothing new to me, but it brings different types of pressure. But at the end of the day, it’s no more pressure than what you put on yourselves as players in making sure you go out there and beat the individual you go up against.”

It is the likes of older heads and solid pros such as Alcock and Nathan Tyson who will man the tiller on the pitch in the coming weeks in a bid to navigate the club’s course to safety.

Showing the requisite fight to battle their way out of a sticky situation is a non-negotiable according to Alcock, candid enough to accept that several relegation-haunted sides will currently be viewing Rovers as vulnerable.

After a torrid run, now it is all about impacting the future as opposed to reflecting on the past. Controlling the controllables is the term.

Alcock said: “At the end of the day, everyone is disappointed at the position we are in. But it’s gone now, we have to be positive and upbeat as there is the next game.

“And the last thing you want to do is go into that next game feeling even more down in the dumps. We need to crack on now to Saturday where hopefully we can put things right.”

On the importance of showing appetite for the fight, he added: “At the end of the day, that’s the minimum you should expect as a footballer.

“Regardless of how a game goes or whether you have been good on or off the ball or whatever, the main thing you can do is run around and make sure you dominate the opposition you are playing against.

“If you come off the pitch knowing that whatever has happened, you have put in maximum effort against the person you are up against, we will win more than we lose.

“The one thing we don’t want is to get into a situation of ‘he said, she said’ and getting to a blame game almost. We all need to make sure we say: ‘look, we are in this together and if we are successful, we are all successful together.’”

Today marks the first of 13 cup finals, according to Alcock and while it sounds a cliché, it could have plenty of credence with Rovers also facing a host of sides in close proximity before season’s end.

Given Rovers and Shrewsbury’s closeness in the bottom six and grave need for points above all else, the odds aren’t on a classic this afternoon. You don’t usually get prizes for winning beauty pageants in March and April, with victory -–whichever way it comes – being the be-all and end-all

Alcock said: “We have 13 cup finals to go for now.

“We need to get that winning feeling back. If anything, it will get the crowd going again. They have still stuck with us and we are grateful to them and it’s about time we as players started repaying a bit of that faith.

“We need to win, first and foremost. It might take an absolutely disgusting game and winning it 1-0.

“If so, everyone’s happy at the end of the day and results are what matters now.

“We know as players, the situation we are in and the gaffer has made it perfectly clear. I

“If we weren’t aware of it from a few weeks ago, we should be moreso now.”