BOTTOM of the pile, seven points from safety and without a victory in five matches, the problems continue to mount for Doncaster Rovers manager Dean Saunders.
Bristol City’s point at promotion-chasing West Ham in midweek saw Saunders troops fall to 24th in the Championship while relegation rivals Watford compounded their woes by beating Brighton and Hove Albion.
High-flying Middlesbrough came-from-behind to condemn Rovers to a fourth home defeat in eight outings, with Saunders tasting just one win on home soil since replacing Sean O’Driscoll at the helm. Versatile defender George Friend accepts the Keepmoat outfit have to rectify this record after the international break to give themselves a chance of escaping the drop.
He told The Star: “It is not good enough to have the one win at home.
“We will take points home or away right now but we have to make the Keepmoat more of a fortress.
“It is something we are working on and luckily we have got a lot of games left in the season to put it right.”
Saunders blamed the below-par distribution from the back and a lack of creativity from midfield for Rovers recent home setback. He has also criticised the “ridiculous” defending which has cost his side vital points, pointing out Portsmouth’s opener came directly from a route-one kick from the goalkeeper.
Friend said: “We thought the draw against Coventry was going to be an upturn in our form and it is a shame it hasn’t panned out like that.
“We were brilliant for the first 30 minutes the other night but we have to do it for the whole game.
“We had some great chances and if they had gone in, I’m sure it would have been a different story.”
El-Hadji Diouf, the club’s latest high-profile recruit, made his debut versus Boro, playing 73 minutes before being taken off and replaced by Giles Barnes.
“Dioufy looks like he is going to be really good addition to the squad,” said Friend. “He is going to be a good threat going forward for us.
“I think it is great we have brought in new players. We have been injury-prone and it gives the manager options. It is something we haven’t had for a while so to bring these quality players in can only help us.
“Hopefully it will pay off and we will move up the league.”
Saunders said controversial Senegalese international Diouf is about “70 per cent fit” but was pleased with his contribution in his first competitive start since May.
“El-Hadji still showed what a good player he is,” said the Welshman. “He is different class, a Premier League player.”
Rovers head to inconsistent Ipswich Town tomorrow looking to get back to winning ways and Friend insists they do fear the big-spending Tractor Boys.
“Ipswich are a funny team this year,” he said. “They seem to have had some mixed results. We are not going to go their scared of them. We can take a lot of positives from the way we performed in the opening 30 minutes against Middlesbrough and if we can carry that into the weekend we will give Ipswich a right good go.”
Saunders is determined to lead Rovers away from trouble and is targeting eight points per month to safeguard the club’s position in the second tier of English football.
He said: “We have to try and get enough points on the board so we can try and stay in the league this year and then next year try to go the other way.
“I know there are problems and I have to put them right. I have to try and solve the puzzle.
“I wouldn’t be here if everything was perfect.”