DEFEAT is not an emotion Middlesbrough have experienced much of this season.
But the promotion-chasers are desperate to avoid a third npower Championship away defeat in a row tonight when they visit out-of-sorts Doncaster Rovers.
Boro have lost their last two awaydays – at Nottingham Forest (2-0) and leaders Southampton (3-0).
Saturday’s desperately disappointing defeat on the south coast dropped Boro to fourth place in the table, but they do have the perfect opportunity to bounce back tonight.
Doncaster are stuck in the relegation zone with, seemingly, little prospect of escape.
Rovers sacked Sean O’Driscoll and replaced him with Dean Saunders but, after winning his first game in charge, the former Wrexham boss is enduring similar form to his predecessor.
Doncaster have scored only nine times in 14 games and are still not in double figure in terms of points.
Boro boss Tony Mowbray identifies Doncaster’s home woes as a source of encouragement ahead of their visit to the Keepmoat Stadium.
“I think the atmosphere in the stadium is difficult for them at the moment, it’s not vibrant,” said Mowbray. “It’s probably a decent time to go there because the stadium does not seem to be totally in love with its football team at the moment.
“If we can get on top and put a few doubts in their minds then hopefully we could have a good night. But, by the same token, we will respect the quality they possess, they have some tidy footballers.
“They have some players who can hurt you so it could be a tough day. But it’s about us, we need to go there and apply ourselves.”
Saunders has brought in former Premier League players Pascal Chimbonda and Herita Illunga, who impressed in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Coventry, while he has also added the temperamental former Sunderland player El-Hadji Diouf.
“Bringing in players of their obvious quality can only benefit us,” claimed Saunders. “It’s a good policy.”
However, crucially, Rovers are likely to be without their most threatening player Billy Sharp. Sharp missed the trip to the Ricoh Arena for personal reasons and is almost certain to be absent tonight too.
Kevin Thomson has been nursing a hamstring problem and is set to miss out again for Boro tonight.