When Easter Monday arrives in the football calendar it spells the beginning of the end of the campaign and with just seven games to go, Bristol Rovers need wins, and fast.
The Gas head into the game at home to Doncaster needing end a run of five straight defeats if they want to stay in the third-tier next season.
The fifth defeat on the bounce came at Portman Road last time out as Rovers fell to a 2-1 loss at Ipswich. The match saw them 2-0 down after eleven minutes with some comical defending to say the least but boss Joey Barton still believes he can turn the tide and help The Gas finish above the dreaded bottom four.
“I must be barmy, absolutely barmy based on certainly the first 10 minutes,” Barton told BristolLive.
“But while there’s air in your lungs, you’ve got to fight. Yeah teams have got games in hand but you’ve got to go and get those and put points on the board.
“If I had all the players I had when I came in then great, but we just lost key components. To compound that, we’ve had some mad officiating and teams that have made some insane decisions, so it’s tough.
“People send you these kinds of challenges to test you and see if I’m going to be what I want to be as a coach and a manager.
“This will be an experience that I draw down on in future years to come for inspiration or certainly moments where I think that the job is tough.
“Losing five on the spin, trust me this is as tough as it’s got for me, that’s including junior level. I’ve won since I’ve been a kid, all I’ve done is being a part of winning teams.
“The attitude will always be the same and that’s what we’ll think when we play Doncaster. There will be lads in there who will be devastated because they know their mistakes are costing the team vitally.”
Barton welcomed midfielder Ed Upson back into the side after the former MK Dons recovered from a muscle strain however Barton may opt to play the more attack minded Zain Westbrooke in order to try and unlock the door needed to gain three points this week.
Defender Alfie Kilgour and midfielder Josh Grant remain on the injury list.
Doncaster go into the game still looking to finish the season inside the play off places.
Rovers are three points off the top six but after a 1-0 defeat to fellow play off chasing Charlton on Good Friday, interim boss Andy Butler, who took charge of Donny after predecessor Darren Moore made the switch to Sheffield Wednesday, wants his side to show more hunger ahead of their trip to the South West.
“The players have to be ready and have a hunger for the Bristol Rovers game because it is a really important one for us to help get us going again,” Butler told the club’s website.
“It is important that we get our form back on track but also our away form has needed some improvement for a while so hopefully this is something we will address at Bristol.
“Everyone seems fine after Friday’s game – we just have a few tired bodies in the building, which is understandable.”
“They (Bristol Rovers) will be scrapping for their lives and I am expecting a tough game.
“A new manager has gone in there and hopefully we can go there, dictate play and put on a good performance to stop this run of form.
“Hopefully goals will come to us. Apart from the results, I think I am doing the right things and sometimes you get the rub of the green, sometimes you don’t. Most of the games we’ve lost, we’ve lost by fine margins.”
Donny defender Joe Wright is a doubt for Easter Monday’s encounter after being forced off in the loss to Charlton through injury, Cameron John is expected to deputise in his place. Butler has no other injury concerns.
Bristol Rovers Predicted XI (4-3-3):
Doncaster Rovers Predicted XI (4-3-1-2): Jones (GK); Halliday, John, Anderson, James; Smith, Bostock, Richards; Coppinger, Bogle, Okenabirhie.
Harley and Max: The Gas 1-0 Doncaster Rovers
Simon: The Gas 1-1 Doncaster Rovers
Mets and Jack: The Gas 1-2 Doncaster Rovers