Get with dogged Donny
When managerial vacancies come around – and they do with unceasing regularity – Greg Abbott’s name is rarely thrust into the ring. But the Carlisle boss has an enviable record, having led his side to an improved finish in League One every year since taking charge, with last season’s eighth place the high watermark.
But momentum doesn’t always come easily at Brunton Park, at least not the sort Crawley and Fleetwood have been riding on of late. Not blessed with a hefty budget, the Cumbrians must overachieve and delve into the untapped areas of the transfer market. This term they may just have to settle for consolidation.
Abbott admitted as much earlier this month. Speaking to the BBC he said: “Maybe stuff we have had over the last three years is coming back to hurt us a bit. The expectation is ahead of what it should be at the moment.”
Managers reining in expectations during the good times is one thing but when they’re busy lamenting ambition during a slump the alarm bells should sound. Since those comments, which followed a run of one league win in five, United have drawn one and lost their last two, slumping to a 4-1 reverse at the hands of Leyton Orient at the weekend.
Just as concerning were the manager’s hints at a fragile dressing room mood. It all points to a side worth taking on, and we’re doing just that when Doncaster visit on Tuesday night. United’s recent home record is alarming. Blessed by geography, they have so often been an immovable force on their own patch but Abbott’s charges have now lost four of their last five, shipping four against Orient, Bournemouth and Notts County.
By contrast, Rovers have enjoyed an encouraging recent run on their travels and would surely be shorter than the current quotes of 7/4 were it not for back-to-back home hiccups earlier in November. The first of those – a 2-0 reverse against Crewe – came as something of a shock but the second, at the hands of upwardly mobile Bournemouth was less surprising. However, after seeing off Portsmouth on the road last time out we’re backing Dean Saunders to guide his side to more away success.
Indeed, having criticised Saunders during his time at Wrexham and the early months at the Keepmoat, we’re warming to the Welshman’s managerial qualities. That weekend result was a case in point. Winning ugly wasn’t always a speciality during his reign at the Racecourse, despite – or more likely because of – myriad transfers in and out.
But Donny are now unbeaten in seven on their travels, battling most impressively to successive victories at promotion rivals Tranmere and Notts County during October. Leyton Orient, Colchester and Walsall have been brushed aside too.
The boss has also been helped by the ditching of the ludicrous transfer policy which helped send the south Yorkshire club back into the third tier last spring. Instead, Saunders has a ream of savvy Football League faces at his disposal, including Saturday’s match-winner Iain Hume, as well as James Harper, Billy Paynter, David Cotterill and Andy Griffin.
Lying on the fringes of the play-off places, just a point shy of sixth-placed Crawley, take efficient Rovers to deliver more home misery for Carlisle and rack up their fourth straight away triumph in the process.
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