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Morecambe vs Doncaster Rovers – Preview

Saturday marks the 500th appearance of James Coppinger for the club, an enormous milestone that will rightly be celebrated by all at the club. Coppinger is now in his thirteenth season with the club in which he has played a crucial role in a League One title-winning team – netting the winning goal that handed us that accolade – as well as promotion at Wembley and a Football League Trophy triumph, and it is hard to argue with his place among the greats at Doncaster Rovers.
His status is assured but his form this season continues to add to the legend. Two goals and three assists in the opening six games have earned the skilful midfielder a nomination for Player of the Month, and he will be a key man when Rovers head to high-flying Morecambe this weekend aiming to return to the top three after a loss to Crewe ended a four-game winning run.
The Shrimps were top of the league after a run of four straight wins until losing at home to Leyton Orient last time out, so Jim Bentley’s side will be a tougher opponent than their pre-season tag as relegation favourites suggests. This is the first meeting between the two teams since 2003, when Rovers finished behind Morecambe on goal difference in the Nationwide Conference but went on to win promotion in the inaugural Play Offs and the differing trajectories of both clubs has kept them apart ever since.
Rovers’ injury curse shows little sign of relenting as we look to bounce back from a first defeat in five games, new signing Frazer Richardson unlikely to be fit to feature after taking a knock in the 2-1 defeat at Crewe meaning Darren Ferguson may have to rely on a makeshift defence once more. Riccardo Calder is pushing for a start after another encouraging performance off the bench, whilst messrs Williams and Marquis will surely continue up front looking to get back amongst the goals.
One to Watch
Barry Roche is up alongside Coppinger for the Player of the Month award after a series of inspired performances helped the club he has served for eight years head to the top of the table. Clean sheets in games against Yeovil and Portsmouth show the importance he has, and even in defeat against Leyton Orient last Saturday Roche was acclaimed for a Man of the Match display that kept Morecambe in the game.
Big Weekend
All eyes will be on the visiting #26 as James Coppinger breaks the 500 appearance barrier, extending his club record. He is a man in top form, turning in vintage displays and with his propensity for shining when the big occasions come calling, expect nothing less than another masterclass from the Rovers captain.
Adam Stubbings

Crewe Alexandra vs Doncaster Rovers – Report

Rovers snatch defeat from the jaws of victory once again…

  • If I was going to summarise the entirety of the game against Crewe in one word I’d go with ‘frustrating’. However, Rovers’ performance was anything but woeful. At times, it was absolutely brilliant which made the result as disappointing as it could get. Especially considering Rovers basically dominated play for 90 minutes. It was frustrating because we were so damn good and threw it all away.
  • Having said that, Rovers didn’t get off to the greatest start, it was a bit slow and lacklustre at times. We managed to have most of the possession, but struggled to really create anything. Once we got into the swing of things however, we were suddenly unplayable but seemed unable to pose any real threat of scoring.
  • The first time Crewe’s strikers got into our half, they hit the back of the net. It was very disappointing that Marosi didn’t manage to save the ball, especially considering the form he has been on as of late and how impressive most of his saves are.
  • Once we had conceded, we suddenly began to fully immerse ourselves in the game. Rovers’ latest signing, Frazer Richardson, was excellent in providing much needed width to the game, and he worked very well alongside Matty Blair on the right hand side of the pitch. Houghton, Coppinger and Rowe were also essential in creating chances from the remaining areas of the field.
  • Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to matter how many chances were created because not one player managed to capitalise on them. Williams and Marquis missed sitter after sitter, a particular highlight being where Marquis ran half the length of the pitch before sending a beautiful cross to Williams who somehow managed to miss a goal that seemed to be set up perfectly, and was totally unmissable. The constant missing of chances from both strikers caused Rovers fans to wonder how we were ever going to equalise if we were unable to score whilst being so dominant.
  • During the second half, Ferguson made one of his most bizarre double substitutions yet when he took off Wright and Richardson and replaced them with Middleton and Calder. This left Rovers with one real centre back in Andy Butler and forced Evina and Haughton to join him in the back three, which was as odd as it sounds.
  • Middleton didn’t seem to make any impact during the game, but Calder was something else entirely. The guy was unplayable, beating man after man. I was truly impressed with his performance, which was on another level in comparison to his many games for us last season.
  • Eventually, we equalised. Personally, I believe that the referee (who was diabolical throughout the game) began to feel sympathy for us when we missed every single attempt on goal and simply awarded the penalty because we deserved it after trying so hard. Tommy Rowe effortlessly made Rovers level at long last and the fans celebrated like it was a winning goal, mainly because most presumed we’d just miss it given our terrible luck with penalties this season.
  • Despite the substitutions helping to improve our chances of scoring, the minute Crewe began to attack we totally fell apart at the back, resulting in a late winner. This was entirely down to our sudden lack of defenders and left Rovers fans disappointed. Despite the excellent attacking performance, we ended up with a loss we didn’t deserve.

Winners:

Frazer Richardson: First impressions are very important in football, and he nailed his. Although he was subbed off, presumably due to fatigue after a lack of game time, he defended well and wasn’t afraid to go forward and create chances.

Ricardo Calder: I’ve already sang the Villa loanee’s praises plenty in this report, but that still doesn’t do his performance justice. He must be getting closer to a place in the starting eleven.

Tommy Rowe: Basically because he was the only player who managed to score.

Losers:

Cedric Evina: Crewe seems to be a ground that never favours the French defender, who seemed nervous despite an excellent spell so far this season. Last season he made a shambolic error that was a huge factor contributing towards our relegation, and it definitely hindered his performance on Saturday. The Crewe management noticed this and swapped the pacy Kiwomya to the right wing to fully expose his weaknesses, and boy did he run rings around him.

The front two: Both of them failed to score on numerous occasions, despite being fed constant chances. Both of them have scored a decent number of goals this season so far, and they need to ensure that they don’t get out of the goalscoring habit.

The referee: Despite him being a very experienced premier league referee, he was unbelievably biased towards Crewe (if you don’t take the sympathy penalty into account). The situation with Marquis’ head injury in the first half exemplified this, where he awarded the striker with a booking for re-entering the pitch after receiving treatment – only to realise that he had already been allowed back on by the fourth official.

Lizzie Robinson

Crewe Alexandra vs Doncaster Rovers – Preview

Three wins on the bounce and suddenly life is grand at Doncaster Rovers again…

Fergie takes his in-form side to Gresty Road this weekend to take on Crewe, a quick return for Rovers to the ground in which our pathetic relegation to League Two was confirmed only four months ago. Writing the wrongs of that day – and indeed the season – will take at least the entirety of this campaign but we have started well and can go a long way to banishing those bad memories with a fourth straight victory here which could even send us to the top of the table.

The Railwaymen are without a win in six matches since claiming their sole maximum of 2016/17 at Stevenage, meaning their last home win was that fateful 3-1 result that consigned Rovers to the bottom tier on a soggy spring afternoon. Whilst Rovers have kept three clean sheets in the last four games, goals have been flying in in Crewe’s games – they drew 3-3 with Hartlepool in their last home fixture and lost a seven-goal thriller at Blackburn in the EFL Cup last week.

A typically low key end to the transfer window at the club saw free agent Frazer Richardson become the only new addition to the squad this week, but the former Leeds and Rotherham defender is a vital addition to cover the still growing injury list, with Mitchell Lund out for two months. The better news from our bloodbath with Yeovil last Saturday is that both Joe Wright and Matty Blair escaped serious injury and will be available for the trip west.

One to Watch

Chelsea loanee Alex Kiwomya is a highly rated addition to Crewe’s young squad, the twenty-year-old having already notched three goals in his first four games for the club. Kiwomya, nephew of former Ipswich striker Chris, utilises his excessive pace and skill to threaten from the wide areas and must be considered the main dangerman in the opposition line-up.

Big Weekend

Joe Wright – Defender Wright withdrew from the Welsh U21 squad due to the club’s injury crisis and will be hoping that decision was justified as he looks to improve on a shaky performance in the 4-1 win over Yeovil. Wright is a work-in-progress and needs to add consistency to his game if he is to command a regular starting berth once injured players are fit again.

Adam Stubbings

Doncaster Rovers vs Yeovil Town – Report

Style and finesse wins out over brute force and thuggery as Rovers see off Yeovil comfortably on a rainy afternoon at Lakeside…

  • Andy Williams netted a richly deserved hat trick in the 4-1 win, striking home before half the crowd had reached their seats to give us a first minute lead. This was exactly what our talismanic striker needed – a confidence boost that he took on throughout the rest of the afternoon in a perfect performance.

  • If not for those two late goals, the Man of the Match award had to be heading to the captain again. James Coppinger pulled the strings across the attacking line all game, demonstrating his undoubted class and netting a crisp finish to take us two up before teeing up Williams for the third to put the game to bed.

  • Our visitors Yeovil Town got exactly what they deserved, the game unravelling after a 76th minute red card for Bevis Mugabi. The Glovers’ came to smash us off the park and it worked for a time, but in the end our superior footballing ability won out and we were able to comfortably see out the game against ten men.

  • Despite the scoreline, things were not plain sailing. Tom Eaves squandered two excellent chances before a moment of madness from emergency right back Matty Blair cost Marko Marosi a deserved clean sheet, and within minutes of Ryan Hedges’ halving the deficit from Blair’s mistimed back header, débutant sub Izale McLeod fired wide when he should’ve done a lot better.

  • On top of Yeovil’s brutish tactics, Rovers also had to contend with atrocious officiating from both the referee and his assistants, Martin Salisbury unable to keep a lid on the tension and proving utterly incapable of applying any kind of consistency to his decisions. Coppinger and John Marquis in particular were nobbled again and again without Salisbury batting an eyelash, whilst his assistants failed to grasp the basic rules of offside and the ball going out of play.

  • Two players ended the day in hospital, including Mitchell Lund who went off with a potentially serious rib injury. It is to the team’s credit that we have now won three on the trot and sit third in the table despite a swathe of injuries, and reinforcements may need to be brought in ahead of Wednesday’s loan deadline.

  • One thing we have cracked over the summer is set pieces. The opener came from another well worked Coppinger corner, and Rovers always looked threatening from the dead ball. In addition, crosses provided the assist on all three of the other goals, proving that creating chances and exploiting our width to good effect is no longer a problem.

Winners

Andy Williams: The ultimate confidence man turned in a flawless performance, showing exactly why he is our first choice striker with a well taken hat trick. On top of that, he worked hard all day harrying the Yeovil defence, scaring the keeper and always making himself available to carve out a chance at goal.

James Coppinger: Another vintage Copps display, the puppet master in the middle of the park. He got on the scoresheet, made an assist and his set piece delivery was as good as it’s ever been too. He also chased down every ball and wasn’t afraid to get into the thick of it against a set of brutes, even earning a slightly unjust yellow card for a scuffle in the second half.

Darren Ferguson: Stuck to his guns and played football the right way, ultimately paying dividends against easily one of the most physical sides ever to come to the Keepmoat. Fergie should be commended for getting us on this winning run in the face of so many setbacks, and it’s nice to see a manager always on the edge of his technical area shouting instructions to his players.

Losers

Bevis Mugabi: The young centre back summed up his team’s performance when he was sent off for a second bookable offence. Mugabi favoured sheer brutality in his dealings with our strikers all afternoon, and it’s a shame to see a team who once played proper football kicking superior sides off the park in back end of League Two.

Martin Salisbury: The referee was nothing short of a disgrace, and if he’s officiating in the EFL next weekend then there is no hope. He got so many decisions wrong, alongside his hapless assistants, and a red card was not at all a surprise to see owing to Salisbury’s complete and total inability to control the game.

Joe Wright: One man whose performance stood out for the wrong reasons in Rovers colours was centre back Wright. The youngster is still learning his craft but had a bad afternoon here, struggling to clear simple balls away, being physically outmatched constantly despite his height and getting caught chasing shadows far too often.

Doncaster Rovers vs Yeovil Town – Preview

Doncaster Rovers vs Yeovil Town. A fixture that screams League 2…

Yeovil Town are the visitors to the Keepmoat Stadium on Saturday, facing a Rovers side looking to win three matches in a row for the first time since February 2015.

The Glovers haven’t won in the league since the opening day, presumably as they are unable to recover from me tipping them for relegation here.

All the usual suspects remain on the treatment table and the absence of Niall Mason, Tyler Garratt, Craig Alcock, Luke McCullough, Mathieu Baudry, Aaron Taylor-Sinclair, Paul Keegan and Gary McSheffrey ensures that Darren Ferguson could look to name an unchanged team.

Darren Way’s side are coming off the back of three consecutive defeats without scoring a goal so will be looking to bounce back against Rovers. Fergie’s men have been revitalized by a shake up to the formation and it looks like thing could finally be looking up for the South Yorkshire side.

One to watch

Otis Kahn has impressed for The Glovers since signing from Barnsley and the former Manchester United trainee will be full of confidence after scoring on his debut on the opening day. He faces a strong defensive unit however who will be looking for their third consecutive shut out.

Big Weekend

Andy Williams – The former Swindon striker is barely justifying his place in the starting  XI at the moment and he desperately needs a goal to boost his confidence (not least because I backed him to be the divisions top scorer at 9/1).

Marko Marosi – Two consecutive clean sheets means that Marosi will surely start again against Yeovil and a third would cement his place as Rovers #1. He has never been closer to claiming the jersey as his own.

Match Prediction – DRFC 2-0 Yeovil (Williams, Marquis)

I’m going to stick with my prediction that Yeovil will struggle this season so Rovers should really be looking to claim all three points. John Marquis is on fire at the moment and surely Andy Williams must be due a goal. He is still creating chances he just needs to stick one away.

Rob Johnson

Cheltenham Town vs Doncaster Rovers – Preview

Doncaster Rovers are finally up and running, but is it possible for us to win two games in a week?

We needed improvement from the draw with Crawley and on Tuesday night, we got improvement. Rovers dominated proceedings against Cambridge United on a strange summer evening at the Keepmoat, eventually emerging as 1-0 winners to register our first maximum of the season.

The side imposed themselves on the opposition and created plenty of good chances, and although it was by no means the perfect performance, it was a much better showing than we saw in the previous two league games, so there is plenty of encouragement to take forward into this weekend’s fixture.

That outing will be to Cheltenham, newly promoted back into the EFL after one season playing in the National League. Gary Johnson has turned the perennial strugglers into a formidable outfit and they have made an unbeaten start to the season, underlining their intent by knocking Charlton out of the EFL Cup last week.

In fact, the Robins have not tasted defeat since Easter Monday but Rovers go into the game having sparked a bit of momentum and should have no fears on the pitch when they step out at Whaddon Road this Saturday afternoon. Cheltenham have drawn 1-1 in every league game so far, and were only able to name five substitutes for their match at Carlisle in midweek.

Talismanic striker Dan Holman may not make the game after injuring a toe last Saturday, whilst club captain Aaron Downes remains on the long term injury list. Rovers remain without a host of first team players, including Mathieu Baudry and Paul Keegan, but Tyler Garratt should be fit to feature after going off with a knock against Cambridge.

The last time we played in this fixture in the league was a memorable one for all the wrong reasons. An inspired goalkeeping performance from Shane Higgs ensured a 2-1 win for the home side and as a result, Rovers missed the chance to go up automatically from League One in 2007/08. Of course, alls well that ends well as James Hayter and his beautiful head can attest to, and there is no reason to believe that we can’t turn Tuesday’s victory into a run of good form.

Adam Stubbings

Doncaster Rovers vs Cambridge United – Report

A much improved performance sees Rovers finally off the mark…

  • An injury to Niall Mason saw Mitchell Lund return to the starting line up but more surprising was the inclusion of Tyler Garrett and Marko Marosi at the expense of Riccardo Calder and Ross Etheridge respectively. The chopping and changing of the goalkeeper suggests that Fergie doesn’t know who his best keeper is. A worrying thought 4 games into the season.
  • Fergie talked in the run up to this game that Rovers must win at all costs. The players must not have been listening as they should have been behind after 30 seconds. A nothing ball was headed on to find Ben Williamson through on goal but the striker could only hit the side netting. A better striker would have punished Rovers.
  • A hectic start saw Cambridge keeper Will Norris booked for hand ball. He ran way out of his box in his effort to prevent a corner and bizarrely handled the ball. It wasn’t to be the last strange incident on a surreal Tuesday night.
  • Rovers began to get their bearings and when John Marquis was bundled over in the area it looked like Rovers would get some reward for their endeavour. Marquis picked himself up, dusted himself off (as I am required to say by law every time a fouled striker takes the resulting penalty) and saw his tame penalty saved by  Will Norris.
  • To be fair to Marquis he didn’t let his head drop and with Copps pulling the strings behind him, the former Millwall man carved out two good opportunities for himself but couldn’t finish. It is unlikely that Marquis will face a defence as charitable as that of Cambridge again this season and whilst it is encouraging to see him carving out his own opportunities, he needs to be more clinical.
  • The crowd were disgruntled at half time but Rovers had been the better side. The second half continued in the same vein with the U’s offering zero attacking intent. This lack of an outlet allowed Copps to be employed exclusively as an attacker and that freedom resulted in another impressive display.
  • The games second bizarre incident saw the assistant referee unable to continue presumably due to illness. This in of itself is not that unusual but the fact that the issue took 14 minutes to resolve including a request going over the tannoy for a supporter with a ref licence to take over from the fourth official was definitely a first for me.
  • The worry with a big break is that it will slow momentum for the team on top but to Rovers credit they picked up from where they left off as Matty Blair’s pinpoint cross was headed home by a clearly thrilled John Marquis. He had done everything but score.
  • Rovers continued to be the better team but needed a goal line clearance from Andy Butler deep into stoppage time to take all three points. An equalizer would have been harsh on Rovers. A deserved victory.

Winners

John Marquis – The former Millwall man went from zero to hero as he made up for his missed penalty with an emphatic header. Whilst Marquis and Williams seem to still be on entirely different pages, both players are capable of making something from nothing and should trouble even the best league 2 defences.

Matty Blair – It was an industrious rather than flamboyant performance from Blair but his cross for the match winning goal was a thing of beauty. Perfectly weighted, impossible to defend and something Rovers have lacked in recent games. Hopefully it will be the first of many assists this season for Matty Blair.

James Coppinger – Two matches, two man of the match awards. Copps was given space to roam by a poor Cambridge side and he made the most of it. On another night he could have had at least a hat trick of assists and his second half pass to set Williams free on the left hand side was breathtaking. The former Swindon striker’s tame finish was unworthy of such a incisive pass.

Losers

Cambridge United – After a bright start Cambridge lapsed alarmingly and the 1-0 scoreline flattered them. The U’s were toothless in attack, lost the midfield battle and looked disorganized at the back. Only an excellent performance from keeper Will Norris kept the scoreline respectable.

Ross Etheridge – Dropped twice and the season is only four games old with Fergie saying he wanted to take Etheridge ‘out of the firing line’. Worrying times for the young goalkeeper.

Fergie’s critics (myself included) – Darren Ferguson’s stubborn insistence on playing 5-3-2 was probably the deciding factor in Rovers relegation last term but it worked a treat here (albeit in slightly modified form with Houghton sitting as a DM) as Cambridge were totally nullified. This system was initially very successful at the start of Fergie’s reign and he will be hoping that he can make the team click again.

Doncaster Rovers vs Crawley Town – Report

Rovers fail to break down poor Crawley side…

  • The starting line up saw expected returns for Copps and Ross Etheridge, as well as a start for Riccardo Calder after he impressed midweek.
  • Calder continued his good form into the first half as he was consistently Rovers’ brightest spark. Shame that everyone around him was total dogger. The defence was shaky, Tommy Rowe was anonymous, Copps couldn’t pick out a team mate and the attack was toothless.
  • Things looked very grim for Rovers when going in 1-0 down at half time. Calder ran down a blind alley after picking up Andy Butler’s weak clearance, a raking crossfield ball was enough to pick apart Rovers defence with Matty Blair again showing that he isn’t  a defender. The resulting cross was spilled by Etheridge and bundled over the line by James Collins. Soft.
  • It is commendable that Joe Wright tries to bring the ball out of defence  but he was caught out too many times in the first half. His half time substitution for Tyler Garrett was no surprise and Garrett offered a more solid presence after the break.
  • As on Tuesday night against Forest, Rovers looked a different side in the second half. The equalizer was one straight from the training ground as Matty Blair pulled a low corner to the penalty spot for Copps to smash home on the turn. A fine goal.
  • After that it was all Rovers but there was a disappointing lack of clear cut chances. Copps powerful free kick was smartly saved by Yusuf Mersin. The Turkish goalkeeper looked shaky aside from that, his awful distribution gifting Rovers possession on a number of occasions but the reds were unable to capitalise.

Winners

James Coppinger – Copps has had a number of critics this season and it was set to be another disjointed performance until his excellently taken goal. From there Copps was by far Rovers best player and delivered a number of perfect crosses only for Andy Williams to be nowhere near any of them. A return to form? Too early to say but this performance was at least encouraging.

Riccardo Calder – Our best player in the second half against Forest and our best player in the first half here. Faded a little in the second half and was promptly subbed but if he can maintain a decent standard for a full 90 minutes then we have a decent player on our hands (until January at least).

John Marquis – Worked tirelessly all game, showed good awareness to pick out his team mates and generally made a nuisance of himself. Just needs a goal now.

Losers

Ross Etheridge – Well this has been an inauspicious start to say the least for the young keeper. Etheridge has conceded 4 goals from 7 shots on target and at least 3 of those have directly been his fault. Still, he can only get better…

Andy Williams – Maybe his worst Rovers performance yet. Uncharacteristically, the delivery into the box from Copps, Calder, Rowe, Blair and others was uniformly excellent but Williams movement and positioning was awful all afternoon. Add on a couple of good chances blazed over the bar and you are left with a rotten game. Maybe time for a stint on the bench?

Home town support – 4327 is a pathetic crowd for a sunny August afternoon but it is a reflection of the dire football combined with ticket prices that are still too high. When will Rovers realize that more fans paying less money is at least the same as hardly any fans paying more money.

Rob Johnson

DRSG Predicts – Our view on the coming season

Never ones to miss an opportunity to make ourselves look stupid, we have all put our necks on the line and had a go at predicting what will happen with all things DRFC this season. Let’s see how wrong supposed Rovers experts can be…

Rob Johnson

Where will Rovers finish this season?

Even taking into account my reservations with Darren Ferguson and the 5-3-2 formation, we should be too strong for this level. I’m going to say 3rd and promotion on the final day.

Our best signing and why?

Absolutely Tommy Rowe. The best player in League 2. No pressure son. Really high hopes for Matty Blair too.

Our worst signing and why?

Etheridge is the easy option but everything about John Marquis screams flop, particularly his goals per game ratio of 0.18 goals per game. Happy to be proved wrong though, I am often am.

Top goalscorer?

Obvious answer but Andy Williams all the way. I suspect he would score more in a 4-4-2 but with Rowe, Copps and Blair pulling the strings he should get loads of chances.

League 2 champions and promoted?

Pompey champions, Rovers, Carlisle and Luton promoted.

Surprise package?

Luton. A big club even at this level. Had two solid seasons back in the football league, time for them to push on now. Also think Crewe wont be as bad as expected.

Make or break season?

Definitely Harry Middleton. This is the year he either establishes himself in the starting XI permanently or follows many of his fellow academy graduates into non league.

Will Fergie still be manager on the final day of the season?

Definitely. Only relegation would see Fergie sacked. Am I happy about it? Not especially.

Relegated teams in League 2?

It’s about time Yeovil went back to non league and I’m going to go Newport County as well.

Are you happy with how the squad looks now compared to May?

I think our squad now would beat our squad of last May quite comfortably which says more about how unprepared were for League 1 than anything else.

Finally in order: Winners of Prem, Champo, L1, FA Cup and Champs League

Man City, Sheffield Wednesday, Millwall, Liverpool and Man City again.

Lizzie Robinson

Where will Rovers finish this season?

I was absolutely convinced we’d win the league. Then 8 players all got injured at once. This puts me in a slightly trickier situation, but I’m going to say we’ll make the play offs – I really want a trip to London on the ‘Sunshine Bus’ next year. I’m going to say 4th, and we’ll win at Wembley.

Our best signing and why?

Tommy Rowe. Not only is he a beautiful man, he is far too good to be playing in League 2. He was far too good for us last season when we were dwindling at the bottom of League 1, so how we’ve managed to secure him is totally beyond me. It really showed the board’s intent for the season ahead.

Our worst signing and why?

It seems that Fergie has an issue with Ross Etheridge already. In interviews he has stated that he feels the new keeper has struggled to adapt to the training methods at Cantley Park, and part of me genuinely thinks that (due to recent high praise) Marosi might even make the starting line-up. Any player who struggles to train is a major concern in my opinion.

Top goalscorer?

It has to be Andy Williams, right? I can’t see it being anyone else. Despite him being outrageously inconsistent last season, missing sitters all over the place and struggling with confidence, he still managed to score 16 goals. In a lower league against shoddy defences, imagine the amount of goals he’ll score.

League 2 champions and promoted?

I reckon Plymouth will win it. Portsmouth and Leyton Orient will probably get promoted too, and we’ll obviously win at Wembley.

Surprise package?

I don’t think Grimsby will do as badly as everyone may expect, they could even finish in a playoff position. Although we’ll absolutely thrash them on both occasions we meet.

Make or break season?

I’m going to say Paul Keegan. As much as I adore him, he really needs to prove why he’s still here this season by somehow managing to stay fit throughout. He is currently a liability and struggles to string a succession of appearances together without taking a knock of some sort. He needs to show Fergie that he is worth keeping, because even I have my doubts. If he stays fit he has the potential to become a Rovers legend, him being injured takes up unnecessary wages.

Will Fergie still be manager on the final day of the season?

Going to be an optimist, which is always dangerous as a Rovers fan, and say yes… if he sorts out the defence.

Relegated teams in League 2?

Yeovil, and with a heavy heart I reckon Blackpool.

Are you happy with how the squad looks now compared to May?

I’d be much happier if they were all fit to start against Accrington (bar ATS of course). We’ve signed a lot of decent players, and gotten rid of some dead weight too. However, Dany N’Guessann is still taking up space in the treatment room.

Finally in order: Winners of Prem, Champo, L1, FA Cup and Champs League

Manchester United, Newcastle, Millwall, Man City, Barcelona I guess, definitely not Leicester…

Neil Taylor

Where will Rovers finish this season?

Top of the league by a 5 point margin. (Although I’m writing this thread morning after Accrington so I’ve had my faith shaken slightly, I was going to predict a 10 point margin).

Our best signing and why?

Tommy Rowe. Not only our best signing but our best player since we were last in the Championship.

Our worst signing and why?

Etheridge. Doesn’t fill me with confidence, doesn’t seem to communicate with his defence and definitely not a step up from Stuckie. He’s a worry.

Top goalscorer?

Williams. Not only top scorer for Rovers or even League 2, probably the top scorer in the whole of the football league.

League 2 champions and promoted?

Rovers, Portsmouth, Grimsby. Playoffs: Luton

Surprise package?

Grimsby. There’s a habit of writing off newly promoted Conference sides, we should know, that was once us.

Make or break season?

Keegan. Surely this must be his last chance to stand for us, assuming he can stay fit (ha!).

Will Fergie still be manager on the final day of the season?

Yes. Either manager of Rovers or Lakeside McDonald’s because if he fucks this up again he’ll not be working in football.

Relegated teams in League 2?

Newport County, Colchester United.

Are you happy with how the squad looks now compared to May?

Fergie has made some very astute signings and one absolutely stand out in Tommy “beautiful bastard” Rowe. We’re a better side than we were last season, can’t really ask much more than that, can you?

Finally, in order: Winners of Prem, Champo, L1, FA Cup and Champs League:

Manchester United, Newcastle, Millwall, Manchester City…. Champions League? I follow European with as much attention as I do when someone’s giving me a set of long directions. Dunno, Barca? Does that sound like an answer that someone who knows what he’s talking about would give? (Ed – Yes it does.)

Flem

Where will Rovers finish this season?

I’m really not confident this season. Two relegations in 3 years has knocked all confidence out of me and I think we will be lucky to reach the play offs. I’m going to say 8th.

Our best signing and why?

Tommy Rowe. Has to be. Why he decided to plump for an average pub side languishing in league 2 I’ll never know.

Our worst signing and why?

Gary McSheffrey. Although he had glimpses of the player of old last season, I feel he doesn’t add much to the side at the age of 96…

Top goalscorer?

Andy Williams, not because he’s great and prolific but because of his lack of competition. Hopefully, Marquis can give him a kick up the arse and he can start raising his conversion rate.

League 2 champions and promoted?

Pompy, Carlisle, Yeovil. Playoffs: Luton

Surprise package?

Yeovil. I have a feeling that they will come good this season after a disappointing season last time out and I tip them to be up there come May.

Make or break season?

Williams. Coming with high expectations last season he didn’t do enough. He needs to find the goals that he was scoring for fun at Swindon or he could find himself a league 2 striker till he retires and winds up working in the trainer section in Sports Direct.

Will Fergie still be manager on the final day of the season?

Depends. With our history of sacking successful managers and rewarding the shit ones, I can see us finishing mid table and Fergie being offered a 10 year extension.

Relegated teams in League 2?

Newport, Colchester.

Are you happy with how the squad looks now compared to May?

Definitely! I’m really happy we still have ATS kicking about in there. I think he’s one of best I’ve seen in our shirt for a number of years.

Finally, in order: Winners of Prem, Champo, L1, FA Cup and Champs League

City, Villa, Franchise FC, Pompey, Arsenal, Dundalk

Lewis Grimes

Where will Rovers finish this season?

I think our support (much like last season) will be unwavering in their optimism. I however, struggle to feel the same enthusiasm for life under Fergie Jnr, i don’t feel that ‘keeping hold of our players’ is a particularly laudable achievement given how badly they all let us down last season and I see us starting with the same formation and having the same headaches as last season. This is a physical league and investing faith in youth will see a very busy physio’s table and a very limp season of performances and (hopefully) a change of management eventually. Final position: 16th.

Our best signing and why?

Surely every supporter will be unanimous in bafflement as to why a quality such as Tommy Rowe has decided to stick around? Either way he might be the only shining light of creativity in an otherwise squalid midfield.

Our worst signing and why?

Ross Etheridge. Having not seen him put in a performance its hard to be too critical of him, but this is now yet another changed mind on our man-between-the-sticks from Fergie and yet another figure that doesn’t strike me as any better rated than those before him? With Stuckmann still under contract, it seems nothing more than a side-step at best and ignorance at worst. Stuckmann offered sure hands for a lot of last season in front of a frankly diabolical defence and his being driven from our first team demonstrates the disregard Fergie seems to show to strong characters – one that might prove to be his downfall.

Top goalscorer?

I really fancy Jon Marquis to shine in League 2 for us, fresh club, fresh confidence and plenty of game-time might make him our target man where Williams struggles for form. Its a shame Tyson never gave us a chance as I think he’d have excelled at this level.

League 2 champions and promoted?

In my ignorance I have to admit I don’t know a whole lot about League 2 as it seems to fall from my attention when we aren’t in it… so I’ll have to make uneducated punts. Champions – Portsmouth (out of financial difficult now right??) Promoted – Cambridge United, Grimsby, Carlisle.

Surprise package?

Grimsby Town.

Make or break season?

Paul Keegan. I have been a real Keegs worshipper of the past and have seen him make himself the most important man on the pitch at times. SOD clearly saw him as the shrewd investment when he proved to be at his best, but injuries and lack of consistent game  time followed by a manager who seems to not hold any regard for defensive qualities has rendered Keegan frustrating. A tough tackling, no nonsense, experienced character on the pitch in a muddy and physical League 2 could prove vital to us clawing our way through games but whether a 32 year old Keegan can muster up the effort in the back-end of his time as a Rovers player remains to be seen.

Will Fergie still be manager on the final day of the season?

Depends. If you’re asking what I hope for, or what I actually think? Based on his inability to motivate our squad and inflexible approach to football I would hope he might have taken leave early on this season allowing us to flourish in a second half of the season. However, I feel our apathetic board will see him as a manager that is above the stature of others in this league and persevere regardless of lacklustre results. Anything but relegation zone will see him safe I’m afraid and that old line ‘We’re investing in long-term strategies with youth’ will be peddled out.

Relegated teams in League 2?

Again, I have no idea: Exeter City, Notts County.

Are you happy with how the squad looks now compared to May?

I think retaining Williams and somehow securing Rowe have been phenomenal signals of intent. Losing Stuckmann, Tyson and captaining Coppinger all seem to be negative set-backs in my opinion though and I fear that lessons from last season haven’t been learnt. I fully expect we will be loaning in a 19 year old RB from Villa to plug a known gap within the month and him to look like he’s never played football before in his life. The squad is still threadbare and too much faith is still invested in certain players that have proven previously shit suddenly not being shit because we’re in a lower league.

Finally, in order: Winners of Prem, Champo, L1, FA Cup and Champs League

Man City, Norwich, Bury, Liverpool, Juventus.

Wesley Grimes

Where will Rovers finish this season?

7th.

Our best signing and why?

Tommy Rowe. I was stunned when we signed him. Far too good to be playing in our shower of shite last season. Bags of energy and a never say die attitude.

Our worst signing and why?

Gary McSheffrey – The polar opposite of Tommy Rowe. Too old, potential to be laid on the injury table for long spells.  I’d have liked to have seen us pull an up and comer from the lower leagues instead.

Top goalscorer?

John Marquis.

League 2 champions and promoted?

Luton Town
Portsmouth
Plymouth
Doncaster Rovers (playoffs)

Surprise package?

Crewe Alexandra.

Make or break season?

Cedric Evina.

Will Fergie still be manager on the final day of the season?

Yes.

Relegated teams in League 2?

Morecambe, Blackpool.

Are you happy with how the squad looks now compared to May?

I don’t feel we’ve been ruthless enough with the squad and a few players got away with their sub standard performances. However, we did our business early with signings of decent pedigree for this level. If Fergie can’t get this lot playing his days are numbered.

Finally, in order: Winners of Prem, Champo, L1, FA Cup and Champs League:

Manchester City, Aston Villa, Millwall, Arsenal, Barcelona.
Adam Stubbings

Where will Rovers finish this season?

I’m going to hedge my bets a little and predict us to finish 5th. I think the play-offs are the absolute minimum we need to be aiming for, and automatic isn’t out of the question but it’s a tough league and there are a few well equipped sides.

Our best signing and why?

On paper it should really be Mathieu Baudry. Our defence is crying out for a leader, somebody strong and when he gets fit I expect Baudry will fill that role. He has the experience and the ability, from what we’ve seen in the past.

Our worst signing and why?

I don’t think pulling down players before they’ve even had the chance to play for us is really fair, so I don’t think anyone we’ve signed is our ‘worst’ signing. I’d say we can’t really judge this until towards the end of the season.

Top goalscorer?

It has to be Andy Williams. He has the talent, knows where the net is and having scored 16 goals last term at a higher level, he should be aiming for a minimum of 20 goals this season.

League 2 champions and promoted?

It’s hard to look past Portsmouth for the title. I know they’ve flattered to deceive in the last few seasons but surely they cannot continue to underachieve. They’ve made strong signings and have stability in the boardroom and the dugout at last, so Ii think they will go up as champions this time round. I’m plumping for Luton and Plymouth to go up behind them, both have a strong backbone and will be tough to beat.  Plymouth have had a high turnover of players but again seem to have recruited well on paper.

Surprise package?

I fancy Cambridge to surprise a few people and potentially make the play-offs. They’ve only been back in the league a couple of seasons but seem to be building year on year and they have some dangerous players, particularly Luke Berry, Piero Mingoia and Harrison Dunk.

Make or break season?

Andy Williams. He may have been our top scorer last season but he has a tendency to go missing in games for weeks on end and loses his concentration far too easily. If he doesn’t score 20-25 league goals this term then he has failed, as he’s clearly too good for this league when on form. We need a reliable goalscorer up front and he should be that.

Will Fergie still be manager on the final day of the season?

I hope so, because if he is it’ll mean we’ve had a successful season and are at least in the top 7. If we don’t get off to a good start, the pressure is on straight away and I wouldn’t expect the owners to give him much longer than they gave Dickov last year. He’s failed in his edict to keep us in League One, now there can be absolutely no excuses if he doesn’t have us competing for promotion from August onwards. (Ed – I’m going to have to push you for a definitive answer) Ha alright, I’ll say that he will still be the manager come the end of the season then, marrying with my prediction that we’ll finish in the top 7.

Relegated teams in League 2?

They may have beaten us as recently as April but I think Crewe are in big trouble. Their squad looks devoid of talent, they’re on a massive downward trajectory and might find it hard to swim the tide in League Two. Crawley have opted for an inexperienced manager and have signed 16 new players, many of whom are total unknown qualities. We will soon find out what these sides are like though since we play both in our opening six games.

Are you happy with how the squad looks now compared to May?

Just about, yes. I said in June that we needed to make 12 signings and by my count we’ve made 11 now. I think we still need another striker as Williams and Marquis are the only senior options up top, but our recruitment has been good and we’ve brought in some experienced players for this level. The biggest thing will be keeping (or getting) these players fit, because when a few players go down with injuries we suddenly look a bit threadbare despite having the numbers in.

Finally, in order: Winners of Prem, Champo, L1, FA Cup and Champs League:

Manchester City, Newcastle United, Millwall, Manchester City & Barcelona.

Lee Croft

Where will Rovers finish this season?

I’m going to say 3rd – but we should be aiming for no less than 1st and 100 points

Our best signing and why?

Matheiu Baudry – Looks to be a very talented individual whose future is going to be higher than League Two Level, I think this signing above all is the statement that the club are at least aiming for a return at the first time of asking. 

Our worst signing and why?

Our worst signing has to be Aaron Taylor Sinclair’s sicknote for obvious reasons. If that answer isn’t eligible then I will have to go with Gary McSheffrey. He’s as old as time and spent his time before us last season struggling for Scunthorpe United. 

Top goalscorer?

Without a doubt it should be Andy Williams but it wouldn’t surprise me if Marquis proved he has more fire than expected and tips Williams to the golden boot.

League 2 champions and promoted?

Plymouth and Pompey will probably battle it out for the title with Pompey probably winning the league, Rovers will be some way behind in 3rd and play-offs? Stevenage look to have enough ambition to challenge to return to League One after a disappointing season last term.

Surprise package?

Stevenage (see above).

Make or break season?

Tommy Rowe, just over a year after the leg break that resulted in him being dropped to Wolves bench/Scunthorpe starting line-up (both equally bad) this will tell whether he can take his form from the back end of last season and show some consistency. 

Will Fergie still be manager on the final day of the season?

He managed to oversee our implosion last season and despite Rovers being relegated after being expected to challenge for top six he remained manager so I dread to think what Fergie has to do before we decide enough is enough. 

Relegated teams in League 2?

Morecambe’s days in League Two look to be numbered with each passing season and Crawley will probably also be in the drop zone come May, which is no less than any team that has employed Steve Evans deserves.

Are you happy with how the squad looks now compared to May?

Yes, although personally I’d have liked to have seen 1 or 2 more regulars from last season depart after our capitulation. Namely those such as Copps who were non-existent all season despite playing in 30+ games. I don’t know how Fergie had the nerve to keep him in the first team, never mind as captain!

Finally, in order: Winners of Prem, Champo, L1, FA Cup and Champs League:

West Ham, Aston Villa, Bolton Wanderers ,(no answer submitted) & Bayern Munich.

Doncaster Rovers vs Nottingham Forest – Report

Late strike seals an undeserved victory for Forest…

  • The big talking points of the starting line up were the absences of Etheridge and Coppinger. It seems odd that Darren Ferguson has brought in a keeper who he is seemingly unsure about as a number 1. With Thorsten Stuckmann now off the books this seems particularly short sighted.
  • Copps was most likely just rested, whilst he would have been raring to go against his former club, Saturday’s game against Crawley Town is much more important
  • The first half was everything that is wrong with the Fergie era. Round pegs in square holes defensively, poor goalkeeping, tactical ineptitude and a total lack of cutting edge. Matty Blair looked wasted at right wing back and Tyler Garrett lost at left wing back. The three centre midfielder’s were predictably overran by their far superior counterparts and it was no surprise when Rovers went 1-0 down.
  • The goal itself was soft however, particularly as Marko Marosi got a hand to it. He should be disappointed to be beaten from there albeit by a strong strike from David Vaughan.
  • Rovers were lucky to go in only 1-0 down as Forest marauded down both wings and only their profligate finishing ensured a one goal deficit as the referee blew his whistle.
  • To use that classic term from the footballing lexicon, it really was a game of two halves. Riccardo Calder replaced Andy Butler at half time and Rovers started the second half the stronger.
  • As bad as Rovers were in the first half, Forest were ten times worse in the second. Uninspired, uninterested, determined to pass the ball around their back 5 no matter now often it got them in trouble. Rovers were fortunate that the ball fell perfectly for Liam Mandeville to prod home from a corner, but the goal had been coming.
  • From there, Rovers were in the ascendency and it was a cruel twist of fate that sealed the South Yorkshire sides demise. Tommy Rowe looked to have been blatantly scythed down at the edge of the opposition box, only for the referee to wave play on. From the resulting clearance, Jamie Ward found himself one on one with Marosi, slotting home from a difficult angle. Good finish under pressure but he never should have been given the opportunity. Poor from the officials.

Winners

Joe Wright – Composed, strong, determined. Watch and learn Luke McCullough. We have been dying out for someone worthy to partner Andy Butler and we may have finally found our man. Niall Mason also impressed alongside him.

Tommy Rowe – He really is a touch of class. In a game when Rovers had little possession, the former Wolves man was calm and composed and was at the heart of every Rovers attack.

Matty Blair – Did his part defensively and was excellent going forward. There is a nagging feeling that he is going to spend a frustrating season being wasted at right wing back however.

Liam Mandeville – A goal and an assist in three days. He would have taken that I reckon…

Losers

Marko Marosi – This was his big chance to stake a claim for the number 1 jersey and he emphatically fluffed his lines. Showed zero understanding with his defence, had no command of his area, awful distribution and should have done better with the first goal. In the space of two games, goalkeeper has become Rovers biggest problem position.

Harry Middleton – We wont face a midfield as good as Jamie Paterson, Chris Cohen and David Vaughan again this season but too often the academy graduate was a passenger. What kind of midfielder is Harry Middleton? He doesn’t do much tackling, offers zero goal threat and creates little in terms of chances. He must improve.

Apostolos Vellios – Nottingham Forest’s £1 million summer signing looked like a competition winner all game. His only contribution was a yellow card.