Two teams who have been tormented by injury problems face off against one another, but will Rovers be able to bounce back from their loss against Blackpool?
The last time Wycombe Wanderers and Doncaster Rovers met was in 2006, drawing 2-2 due to goals from Graeme Lee and Jonathan Forte. In fact, the two clubs have only met three times with Rovers never losing a game against them.
As I sit here, with my laptop on my knee, I am still in a state of depression from the tragic day out at the seaside. The way Rovers performed certainly raised a few concerns. The lack of Andy Williams in the side seems to have caused a lack of determination, mental strength and a passion to succeed. We have spent every appearance without him desperately hanging on to wins we’d only just attained and that stroke of luck was certainly about to change. This poor run of form definitely needs to be fixed, and fast. Perhaps the addition of Tyler Garratt rather than Cedric Evina, who may need resting after taking a knock against Blackpool. He has been a major weakness in defence as of late. Garratt has shown promise during pre-season and in the EFL Trophy and I hope he will add that solidity – along with an ability to actually defend – that we have been lacking in recent fixtures. On a more positive note, Marko Marosi is probably going to be fit despite hobbling off the field after the fourth Blackpool goal went in. Marko has been brilliant in goal all season since becoming Rovers’ number one, making saves that have certainly ensured we hung on to a few victories.
This season, Gareth Ainsworth’s men find themselves 21st in the table, only winning one game this month so far. This low position in the table is presumably due to them having a bit of an injury crisis at the beginning of the season. However, in a similar way to Rovers they may be slowly regaining their formerly absent players as they become fit which may mean that they will be more impressive than anyone can predict – especially if the newly fit additions are particularly impressive.
One to watch
Adebayo Akinfenwa: Like this wasn’t the worlds’ most obvious choice. The ex-rovers striker is an absolute tank and there is no doubt he will tear the sloppier members of our defence to shreds with his immense presence and super-human strength. However, Andy Butler may actually relish the idea of marking the strongest man in English football, and certainly isn’t afraid of such physical battles. It might be interesting to watch.
John Marquis: Since Andy Williams abandoned him up front, it doesn’t seem that the best signing of the Summer really knows what to do with himself. He seemed totally lost on his own on Saturday and, instead of being as hard working as he usually is, did nothing of note all game. He needs to step up and dig in to ensure he makes up for the absence of his strike partner.
Three wins in a row have taken Rovers to within striking distance of leaders Plymouth, but everyone will be looking for improvement after a laboured showing last time out…
Saturday’s win over Colchester was earned thanks largely to the heroics of goalkeeper Marko Marosi, rather than any sort of excellent play from Rovers, and without him or Tommy Rowe we would easily have lost the game. There can be no repeat of that aimless display here, as we head to Bloomfield Road looking to pile on the misery for out-of-sorts Blackpool.
The Seasiders have endured a plunge down the pyramid even steeper than ourselves these last few years, and continue to struggle as the 2016/17 season begins to take shape. Gary Bowyer’s men sit 17th in the table, only two points above the relegation zone, and things are far from sunny on the coast. The ongoing dictatorial rule of the abhorrent Oyston family is crippling the club, and we here at DRSG continue to support the beleaguered Blackpool fans in their endeavours to save their team.
On the field, things aren’t going any better. Four games this month have yielded no wins, and the manner of defeat in their latest fixture away at Accrington is a scenario we know all too well. Two goals in the dying minutes snatched the points away from Blackpool, Stanley winning 2-1 to move into the top 7 and extend Blackpool’s winless run.
Their last victory came at home, an impressive 3-1 victory over Portsmouth, but Rovers should be encouraged by the apparent fragility of their opponents despite their desire to bounce back from that stinging late defeat last week. We only have two wins in the last dozen meetings to boast here, but will be keen for revenge; remembering that disappointing Easter Monday home defeat as our League One place slipped away should add extra impetus.
Mathieu Baudry is pushing for a first start after another strong substitute appearance, whilst Cedric Evina may count himself lucky to line up alongside the Frenchman this weekend after YET another poor outing at left back. Liam Mandeville remains the favourite to start up front now Andy Williams’ long term absence is confirmed (wives lament). He too will need to improve on his performance against Colchester if he is to be taken seriously as a Rovers first teamer.
One to Watch
With 4 goals and 5 assists to his name already this term, Brad Potts is the main playmaker for Blackpool. The midfielder, a young talent signed from Carlisle a year ago, will cause numerous problems for the Rovers defence, who will need to do their best to stifle his creativity and output.
Liam Mandeville can maybe be forgiven a quiet outing last weekend after a poor team performance, but the teenager must step up and show he can fill the role vacated by the injured Williams soon or else he will not be kept in the side. Other young talents are pushing to take his place, and it would be hard to argue with Alfie Beestin replacing him if it is another shy display here.
A dramatic late win ensured Rovers kept up the pace with the leaders last Saturday, but how will Rovers cope without their top scorer as Colchester come to town?
Andy Williams was the hero against Barnet, turning in Matty Blair’s superb cross to give Fergie’s boys a 3-2 win having squandered a two-goal lead minutes before. For Williams though, that effort looks set to be his last in the short term as he left the ground on crutches and is not expected to be fit to play this weekend.
Colchester United are the latest visitors to Lakeside, a team who came down to League Two with Rovers last season. You could say that they dragged us down with them, a 4-1 thumping in Essex on Good Friday still fresh in the memory for fans and, hopefully, the players as well.
However, both teams are very different propositions to the ones that lined up on that day, and it is Rovers who have made the better start to life back in the basement. The Barnet win was a seventh of the campaign and fourth in six outings, whilst the club are now clear by four goals as top scoring team in the division.
By contrast, Colchester are the epitome of average to date, sitting 13th in the standings with four wins, four losses and four draws. Their goal difference also demonstrates the flat rate by which John McGreal’s team are chugging along – 16 for, 16 against – and are without a win in five league matches, whilst their last away maximum came at the end of August.
Darren Ferguson will be able to call upon John Marquis up front, back from suspension, but owing to Williams’ injury will probably keep young forward Liam Mandeville in the line-up alongside him after a strong showing deputising against Barnet. Mathieu Baudry also performed well when brought on as part of a tactical switch in the second half last week, but if the manager sticks to the diamond from kick-off here, expect to see Baudry back on the bench.
One to Watch
Despite being relegated, Colchester possessed a wealth of strong attacking talents last season as proven by their 4-1 win last time the teams met. The likes of Moncur, Sordell, Harriott and Gilbey have all understandably moved on now, but Sammie Szmodics remains having signed a three-year contract in the summer. Szmodics is the main outlet through midfield for the U’s and has three goals this season, the last coming in their most recent victory over Blackpool.
John Marquis is restored to the starting line-up for Rovers this weekend but will be asked to perform with more pressure on his shoulders in the absence of Williams. Usually the support striker for our top scorer, Marquis will have to step up and lead the line himself here with Mandeville providing the support instead.
Fresh off the back of our best win of the season, Rovers prepare for the visit of resilient Barnet…
Whilst many would say a return of four points from our last three games would be acceptable considering the standard of opposition, few would have predicted our sole victory in that run coming away at Portsmouth. Rovers triumphed at Fratton Park with a 2-1 win courtesy of goals from Andy Williams and John Marquis to move up to 2nd in the League Two table, but the importance of that win will only be solidified if we can follow it up.
Marquis, so impressive this season so far with his busy, relentless style, will miss Saturday’s game through suspension, posing a big selection problem for Darren Ferguson. Fergie has preferred starting with two strikers for his entire tenure as manager but is faced with limited options and may opt to deploy Williams as a lone front-man, but both Liam Mandeville and Alfie Beestin have done themselves no harm in pushing for a first start of the season recently.
Martin Allen’s Barnet side sit in 18th place and are without a win in four outings but have proven hard to beat, drawing six of their first ten games and losing only twice, said losses coming at the hands of our last two opponents Portsmouth and Carlisle, so it is by no means a given that Rovers will walk out with the three points this weekend.
Whether the formation is changed or not, Rovers could field an unfamiliar line-up to the one we’ve become used to through our injury crisis, with several first team players now back to full fitness. Mathieu Baudry is pushing for a full league debut in defence, whilst Paul Keegan is also back to 100% again after a long spell on the sidelines, providing competition for places in the centre of midfield.
One to Watch
John Akinde is the key man for the Bees, an imposing striker with a keen eye for goal. The experienced Akinde has notched seven goals in a dozen games so far this season, adding to the 57 scored over the past two seasons for the North London side.
A tricky one to call but whomever replaces John Marquis in the side has some mighty big boots to fill. At present it looks like Liam Mandeville is top of the list to come into the side, having made a good impression off the bench on several occasions this season. Goals are the main thing missing from the youngster’s repertoire, but he has a great chance to fix that here.
No win in two games classes as a bad run for Rovers at the moment, so off we go to the South Coast to try and put it right…
17 points, 3rd in the table…it is a “satisfactory” opening ten games according to Darren Ferguson, who rightly acknowledges that we can be better despite almost being exactly where we want to be at present. Indeed, if the season were to end right now I think we’d all be pleased, as it’d mean we will be making the immediate return to League One that has been demanded by all at the club.
Luton undid us in our last away outing, and despite a good response on Tuesday a draw was all that could be taken from a combative encounter with Carlisle, so Rovers are yet to beat a true promotion rival. Our next opponents Portsmouth are exactly that, the favourites for the title who unfortunately are scoring goals for fun at Fratton Park.
Despite this Rovers are the highest scoring team in the division outright, a fact that also enables to sit directly above Portsmouth, and the automatic promotion line, by virtue of netting more in the first ten games. That stat could be even better, but Rovers have ironically struggled to put away chances including three penalty misses, all from different players after Tommy Rowe’s spot kick struck a post with the scores at 2-1 against Carlisle.
Portsmouth have scored in every home game going back to March, and have 12 goals in their last 3 matches on home turf, winning the lot. The Pompey ranks include no less than four ex-Rovers players, and whilst Enda Stevens and Milan Lalkovic can probably expect good receptions from the travelling fans the same cannot be said of Kyle Bennett or Curtis Main, two players who flattered to deceive in the red and white hoops.
Rovers may finally turn to Mathieu Baudry to start in central defence, but it would be wise to expect minimal changes again as Fergie looks to keep the consistency in our ranks going. James Coppinger has begun to look a little weary in the past week but is still a pivotal part of the midfield, and strike duo Williams and Marquis will look to continue their personal battle for the Golden Boot, now locked together on five apiece along with Coppinger.
One to Watch
Eyes may turn to Curtis Main if he is selected, but the biggest threat up front for Portsmouth has to be Conor Chaplin. The teenager is carving out a great reputation for himself having broken into the first team at the back end of the 2014/15 season, and has scored 3 goals in his last 4 games.
John Marquis scored another superb effort against Carlisle, bringing his tally for the season up to five, and he will have a point to prove going back to one of the many clubs with whom he spent time on loan from Millwall. Marquis is also one booking away from a ban, which would be a big blow to the front line that lacks any real cover.
It’s a swift chance to bounce back as Rovers face their second tough test in a matter of days…
Despite sitting pretty at the top of League Two after half an hour on Saturday, a 1-0 lead that should have been higher was turned around by hosts Luton Town as the Hatters went on to a 3-1 victory to end the Reds’ latest winning run. James Coppinger netted for the third game in a row but the defence was undone too many times and our strikers failed to find their scoring boots.
This was seen as a tough fixture and rightly so as the win took Luton just ahead of us in the table and saw them join us as the division’s highest scoring team to date. Up next is a chance to put things right however as unbeaten Carlisle United come south to the Keepmoat Stadium.
Discounting an epic penalty shoot-out defeat to Derby in the EFL Cup, Carlisle have not tasted defeat since the end of April and will be a formidable opponent. They are one of only two teams to knock off leaders Plymouth so far this term and sit just one point and two places behind us in the standings.
Keith Curle’s side look a dark horse for promotion contention and boast a wealth of talent for this level, conceding just nine goals so far thanks to Mark Gillespie in goal and a defence boasting three ever-presents including veteran Danny Grainger. Our record against the Cumbrians is hit-and-miss but our last meeting at this level was a memorable one, Rovers lifting the Division 3 title at Belle Vue in the closer of the 2003/04 season.
The big question going into the game is which formation Fergie will deploy, reverting to his favoured 3-5-2 in a failed attempt to bring the game back in our favour. If Mathieu Baudry is fit enough to make his full debut, put your money on three at the back. Questions must also be asked of Cedric Evina’s place in the side with Tyler Garratt now fit again after a shoddy display from the Cameroonian at Kenilworth Road.
One to Watch
Charlie Wyke is Carlisle’s main goal threat, picking up where he left off last season netting four goals in eleven games for our visitors. He is ably assisted by the likes of Shaun Miller, who scored the winner against Wycombe on Saturday, Jabo Ibehre and Reggie Lambe, but it is Wyke who so often steals the headlines.
Tuesday evening could see a full debut for highly rated centre half Mathieu Baudry, who appeared off the bench against Luton as Fergie tested the 3-5-2, a formation Baudry was signed to play in. If he starts it’ll mean a change in shape for the Reds, but will the Frenchman be sharp enough at present to make the impact we need him to?
The squad face their toughest test of the season to date as we head to Kenilworth Road…
Darren Ferguson may have been dismayed by the performance last time out but the 2-0 win over Newport was the side’s fifth in six games and has put us into the heady heights of 2nd place going into this weekend’s clash with the Hatters. Optimism is creeping back in to the Rovers fanbase but the more level-headed among us have been keen to stress the difficulty facing us in the next few games.
Four of our five league wins have come against sides currently in the bottom five places in League Two but the shape of the table is still fairly irrelevant at this early stage. Luton pose a significant threat, but have been beaten in their last two games falling from the top of the pile to the edge of the play offs, and momentum is something that always matters in football.
Unlike recent opponents such as Newport and Yeovil, Luton will attack us and do possess quality throughout the team, most notably up front with summer signing Danny Hylton netting five goals already this season, among them an impressive hat-trick against Wycombe. Hylton has stated his belief that Luton are capable of winning the title this year so the aim is clear for both sides.
Rovers though have their own 5-goal forward with a treble under his belt this season, and the battle at opposite ends of the field between Hylton and Andy Williams will be something to keep an eye on if you’re travelling down south on Saturday, Williams on target again along with James Coppinger in the victory against Newport to take the Reds past Luton as League Two’s top scoring team of 2016/17 so far.
Frazer Richardson should return at right back to relieve Matty Blair from the unfamiliar role, although the attacker has done very well deputising there in the past two games. Mathieu Baudry is also close to featuring but will not be rushed in by Fergie, nor will Paul Keegan or Gary McSheffrey although all played a part in a midweek friendly at Cantley Park.
This is our first meeting with Luton since 2008, and we are unbeaten in four matches against them although all four of these games came in League One in the last decade and are our only clashes since 1970.
One to Watch
Hylton may be the main target man but young midfielder Cameron McGeehan could be the game-changer in this one. McGeehan has notched four goals and two assists himself in a promising start to the campaign, and has attracted attention from bigger clubs in recent months. He is also a former U21 international team mate of Rovers defender Luke McCullough, although surprisingly quit the Northern Ireland team citing a change of heart regarding his nationality.
With several injured players not far from returning, now is the time for those in the line-up to earn the right to keep their place. That means a stellar performance is needed from Harry Middleton, replaced after an hour in each of the last two games, with the soon-to-return McSheffrey threatening to take his place and Riccardo Calder also keen to impress from the bench.
Doncaster Rovers vs. Newport County: Match Preview
After Saturday’s uplifting victory by the seaside, it is seemingly impossible for a Rovers fan to not look forward to our next game…
With arguably the best performance since Darren Ferguson came to the club against Morecambe, the Rovers players surely must be on a high – especially considering that no one was added to the ever-growing injury list. Hopefully, Fergie’s men will be able to build on a stellar performance, maintain their winning mentality and manage to recreate something similar. With players like Coppinger, Marquis and Blair on sublime form this seems exceedingly likely.
On the subject of injuries, Tyler Garrett finally made it back onto the bench and may become closer to first team football sooner rather than later. Both Baudry and Alcock are also close to making a return, which may cause the Rovers manager to flirt with the idea of a back five featuring these newly fit players alongside Butler and Wright. Considering our current form with a back four though, such drastic changes to the personnel and formation seem highly unlikely. The only change to the starting eleven that could justifiably be made would be replacing Harry Middleton for Ricardo Calder who was particularly impressive over the weekend, even though he played on the right hand side, when he came on in the second half. Frazer Richardson may also make a return to the side, considering the knock he took at Crewe wasn’t severe, whilst players like Paul Keegan and Gary McShefferey are still very far away from fitness.
The last time we met Newport County was in 1987, where we lost 1-0 to the Welsh side. Admittedly, this means our previous form against them isn’t much to go on when it comes to predicting how the game will go. The Exiles have only won one game so far this season, leaving them in 20th in the league. Warren Feeney’s side’s last game ended in a 2-2 draw against Cheltenham, a side that sits one position above them in the table, with new signing Jon Parkin scoring two goals.
One to watch:
Newport’s aforementioned fixture against Cheltenham brings us swiftly to my ‘one to watch’ for this game: the ex-Rovers striker Jon Parkin. So far, the infamous ‘beast’ has netted three goals for the side – two of which were in Newport’s most recent fixture. Although he was desperately unlucky during his tenure for us, he has always performed well elsewhere and is part of a long line of Rovers strikers who produced nothing for us in comparison to their work at other clubs.
Cedric Evina – Although he started the season moderately well, it seems that since Crewe away the left back’s confidence has diminished, making him much weaker than he previously was at the back. The main concern with Evina in my opinion is that he is much more competent when attacking than he is in his actual role as a defender, with most attacks from the opposition coming from the left. Now Tyler Garrett is fit the Frenchman has to ensure that he is solid at the back so he doesn’t lose his place in the team full stop by being demoted to the bench.