A welcome break from the league sees Rovers making the all too familiar trip west to Boundary Park this weekend…
For the fourth time in nine seasons, remarkably, Rovers have been drawn to face Oldham in the early rounds of the F.A. Cup. Whilst this is a tie that doesn’t really suit either side, it is a chance for some key first team players to build up match fitness after injuries, as well as afford a chance to some of the fringe men to step up and impress.
I hate to be describing a game in the historic F.A. Cup this way, but circumstances have made this a necessity. We have had a ridiculous injury crisis since the summer, and our form in the league has been threatening a decline for several weeks. The manner of the draw with Wycombe last Saturday means we should all be hoping to banish the memories swiftly.
That holds true for one man more than any other: Ross Etheridge. The goalkeeper was directly at fault for both goals conceded in that game, but should keep his place despite the return to fitness of usual #1 Marko Marosi. That is a generous offering from the manager, who has stressed the need for Etheridge to try and get over the mistakes by improving over two cup games coming up.
We may also see Craig Alcock and Paul Keegan back for this one, missing since pre-season due to injury, as they both try to make a tilt at a league return to the first team. Alcock especially would be a huge boost for a far-from-perfect defensive unit that has sorely lacked his presence in the early portion of the campaign.
Opponents Oldham are struggling again this year, mired in the League One relegation zone with only one home win all season. More often than not the Latics can’t even find the net on home turf, but did pull of a shock win over leaders Scunthorpe there a few weeks ago. Surely an anomaly.
Rovers come into the game off a month that yielded a strong 10 points from a possible 15, to sit 3rd in the League Two standings. In our last trip to Boundary Park, the presently injured Andy Williams netted a brace in a 2-1 win just after Christmas to continue our chase for a Play Off spot, but we all know how that ended.
One to Watch
All eyes on Paul Green, the Rovers legend proving to be an integral part of the Oldham side since arriving having played in every game to date. Many Rovers fans spent the summer wishing for a return to South Yorkshire for the prodigal son, but despite a successful trial spell Green instead sought pastures new at a higher level.
Ross Etheridge had a disastrous outing against Wycombe, and will only be able to get the boo boys off his back by turning in a strong performance here. Nobody in England needs a clean sheet more than him on Saturday.