Paul Goodwin: Non-league mission is true test of Doncaster’s character

Andy Butler has added some much-needed steel and leadership.
Andy Butler has added some much-needed steel and leadership.
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Doncaster’s last two performances - both dogged rather than debonair - have been just what was required.

With an annoying tendency to let their standards drop, to take one step forward and then two back, even Paul Dickov had began to question the mental toughness of his side.

Prior to last week the pattern of this season had been marked.

Rovers would play well and win, often emphatically. They would play poorly and lose, often embarrassingly. There was no middle ground.

But the gutsy performances against MK Dons and Bradford City show this team does have the ability to muck in and dig out a result without playing particularly well.

And so they should - this side still has the DNA of the one that scrapped their way out of League One in 2013 by putting brawn before beauty.

Rovers’ current squad have answered back at suggestions they have a soft centre and are liable to switch off at will.

However, tomorrow’s banana-skin FA Cup tie at Conference South side Weston-super-Mare will arguably pose the biggest test of Rovers’ mental strength this season - because any hint of complacency could result in one of the club’s most embarrassing defeats in years.

Doncaster got the job done with minimum fuss when they last faced non-league opposition, Bradford Park Avenue, at the same stage of this competition two years ago.

And a similarly business-like performance will be needed at the Woodspring Stadium, where the sixth tier outfit will be pumped up like never before to make the most of their moment in the spotlight.

Rovers must approach the game in similar mindset. They simply can’t afford to switch off.

And only if they come through this game unscathed can those doubts about mental toughness even begin to be doused. This Doncaster team still has an awful lot to prove.