Doncaster Rovers v Walsall: Turning Keepmoat into fortress is down to belief

Doncaster Rovers assistant manager Cliff Byrne: Wary of Walsall.
Doncaster Rovers assistant manager Cliff Byrne: Wary of Walsall.
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AS statements go, Doncaster Rovers’ crushing 4-1 victory over today’s opponents in the reverse fixture in the Black County was a pretty head-turning one.

It was a mid-September afternoon when Grant McCann’s side hit the heights to emphatically end the Saddlers’ own unbeaten start to the League One campaign, with the Midlanders having travelled in the opposite direction to Rovers since.

While Doncaster have resided in the top-six vicinity all season, their fellow early-season pacesetters find themselves embroiled in a grim relegation fight.

Not that Rovers’ assistant manager Cliff Byrne is reading too much into the Saddlers’ current plight, which is perhaps a wise philosophy.

Hugely unfortunate not to beat second-placed Barnsley at the Banks’s Stadium last weekend, the Saddlers will be keen on some payback at the expense of another South Yorkshire opponent today – at a benevolent Keepmoat venue where they have triumphed on their last five visits.

Dismissing the concept of holding a psychological advantage after Rovers’ handsome win in Walsall, Byrne said: “You can take absolutely nothing (from it).

“It is so long ago that the dynamics of the table have changed and the means of either club has changed and, in some cases, personnel has as well.

“We know we went there and got a win. But we also know that they will be smarting from that as well and will want to rectify it.

“Walsall have had some good performances over the course of the season but maybe have not had the results.

“But I bet that if you go down the country, there will be a lot of teams with similar stories. We will give them every respect they deserve and, having seen them a couple of times live this season, they are a threat with good quality within the team.

“But the focus will be on us, as it is every week. We believe that if we perform to our potential, we have a very good chance of winning the game.”

After excelling in the game at Walsall in early autumn, Rovers reasserted their top-six credentials with an identical scoreline and similarly dominant performance in their much-needed midweek victory over visiting Bristol Rovers.

It helped propel McCann’s side back into the top six, with the bedrock of strong home form underpinning Rovers’ enduring play-off crusade.

Tuesday’s triumph extended Doncaster’s unbeaten league sequence on home soil to 11 matches, with their last defeat coming at the hands of Sunderland in late October.

It is one of just two League One losses that Rovers have registered at the Keepmoat Stadium all season.

On the secret to the club’s consistent home form, Byrne added: “It is the belief in the group to go and win games and perform.

“The home fans also have a big part to play and we have seen the numbers grow and the players are fully appreciative of that.

“I do believe we are performing well as that is what is keeping the fans coming back in their numbers. Long may that continue.”