By Tony Leighton
It was doom and gloom at Doncaster Rovers following May's relegation from the npower Championship, but the storm clouds have lifted and priorities are beginning to change as Dean Saunders' team establish themselves among npower League 1's front-runners.
Three successive victories, one of them handing top of the table Tranmere Rovers their first defeat of the season, have lifted Donny to fifth place and put them just four points below the automatic promotion positions - and they also have a game in hand.
It's no wonder that Saunders is sounding chirpy as he assesses the season to date, even though he will not be drawn on his team's prospects of making a quick return to the division where they spent four seasons before dropping back down to npower League 1.
Saunders, who was appointed in September last year but was unable to prevent Donny from sliding to relegation, says: "As we go along you change the goals. My first goal [at the start of the current campaign] was not to get the club relegated.
"We budgeted for half-way up the League, that was the aim because clubs can slide through the divisions like Southampton and others have done. You get relegated and it can hang over into the next season, so to not get relegated was the main objective.
"But now that we've got 27 points [from 14 games] we can start thinking whether we can do better than that. That's as far as I'll go, though. I'm making no predictions - just, can we go further than simply staying in the League?"
Recent results suggest that Rovers can do far better than simply staying in League 1, though Saunders insists: "We're not playing well at the moment, certainly not as well as we can play and I believe that we can do a lot better."
With the aim of seeing his team do a lot better, Saunders has just made what could prove to be a highly astute signing, snapping up free agent Sammy Clingan following the 28-year-old Northern Ireland midfielder's departure from Coventry City.
"Sammy is a good footballer and we're lucky to have him," says the Donny boss. "He's been offered all sorts of deals since the summer and I've been tracking him since July. We've just got to get him fit now and he'll play a major part for us."
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