PAUL DICKOV will tomorrow concentrate solely on how his Doncaster Rovers players are performing and will ignore how their relegation rivals are faring.
Dickov’s side are just a point above the Championship drop zone as they head into a crunch home match with play-off chasers Reading.
Rovers’ manager knows his side will be safe if they win at the Keepmoat Stadium and third-from-bottom Blackpool lose at Wigan.
But a draw or defeat would leave Doncaster looking over their shoulder on the penultimate weekend of the Championship, with Barnsley facing a must-win trip to Middlesbrough to keep their season alive.
Other teams involved in the scramble to avoid relegation to League One – Yeovil Town will go down tonight if they fail to win at Brighton – are Charlton, who face Blackburn, Birmingham City, who host Leeds United, and Millwall, who travel to QPR.
Dickov refuses to be distracted from concentrating on the Keepmoat Stadium prize of three points.
After watching his 10-man Rovers return from fellow strugglers Millwall with a clean sheet and a point on Easter Monday, Dickov is adamant Doncaster’s defensive resolve will be key to them avoiding an instant return to League One.
“We can’t affect what happens elsewhere, I have said that all along,” said Dickov. “First and foremost, we want to end the season at home with a win.
“It was a fantastic performance from the players at Millwall.
“In the second half, playing the majority of the time with 10 men, the players showed me massive qualities in their desire to not lose the game.
“Some of their defending was outstanding. They were putting their bodies on the line, starting from Chris Brown up front on his own, all the way through.
“Down to 10 men, we had two solid banks of four and made it really difficult for Millwall to break us down.
“Defending, as a rule, over the course of the season has been good. Individual errors have just cost us at times.
“On Monday there was a desire amongst the players for that not to happen, which was pleasing, and something we take into Saturday.
“We know we can defend, put our bodies on the line. We just need to get that little bit of quality back into our play.
“The mood in the camp is really good and the training ground is a positive place to be. I can sense the players have a lot of belief in the upcoming games – I have believed in them all along.
“Our main objective was to stay in the division and we are all confident we can do that.”
Rovers are boosted by the availability of defender Abdoulaye Meite, after winning their appeal to the Football Association over his red card at Millwall.
“It’s a big boost,” admitted Dickov. “Abdoulaye has been outstanding for us and he was in the first half at Millwall.
“I am just glad that common sense has prevailed.”
Lucas Neill, James Husband and Richie Wellens had fitness tests yesterday, and a decision will be taken today on their availability for tomorrow.
Dickov paid tribute to Australian captain Neill, who has extended his loan with Rovers from Watford until the end of the season and who the manager believes will have a key role in the season’s climax.
“Lucas’s experience will be invaluable for the last two games,” he said. “We need all the experienced players we can have in the squad. He brings a calmness to the training ground.”
Facing sixth-placed Reading, then champions Leicester City on the final day of the season – when the Foxes will be presented with the Championship trophy – is a tough run-in.
But Dickov believes playing the division’s elite brings out the best in Rovers, having already beaten the likes of Leicester, QPR, Watford and Wigan this term.
“Reading are a good team, they have a lot of Premier League players there from last season,” said Dickov. “But we have shown when we have played against these sort of teams, that we can rise to the occasion.
“It will be a tough game, but one which can give us the win to get us over the line. We are going into it with fire in our belly, but with cool heads.
“I know, and believe, that when we play the way we can, we are more than a match for anybody.
“The players took a lot of confidence, if only a point, out of the determined performance at Millwall. If we put in more of the same, we will have a good chance.
“Every game is the biggest game of my managerial career,” added the 41-year-old former Oldham manager. “I put pressure on myself every single day. I did as a player and I do as a manager.
“Success for us will be staying in the Championship. At the minute, we have a fantastic chance of doing that.”