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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Will Rovers finally get their fourth win of the calendar year?
I’m honestly not sure how to answer that question. After picking up their first point of the season against Crawley on Saturday, one can only hope that we are getting closer and closer to winning at match at last. Not conceding a late goal in our last game was refreshing and although the first half performance was truly shambolic, the second half was definitely something Fergie’s men can build on.
Rovers last met Cambridge in the FA Cup on the 6th December where we beat the home side 3-1,with Conor Grant scoring an absolute worldie. Last season, the U’s finished in ninth position –missing out on the playoffs by seven points. Shaun Derry’s men are fresh off the back of a loss to Colchester United, but one simply can’t overlook the fact they also had a shock victory over Sheffield Wednesday in the first round of the EFL Cup. This may unnerve the Rovers players a little bit because it shows that the Cambridge side isn’t afraid of facing any opponent, no matter how ‘big’ of a club they are.
In terms of team news, nothing much has changed. Fergie has stated that Paul Keegan is no longer injured, but isn’t match fit due to a lack of training in pre-season. Baudry and McSheffery aren’t far off making the squad either, but Alcock, McCullough and ATS (thank the lord) are still nowhere near fitness.
Saturday’s game hasn’t eased Fergie’s goalkeeper predicament either, with Etheridge failing to pull off a great performance yet again. Perhaps once our better defenders return from injury, the quality of our goalkeeper simply won’t matter as much. Whether the front two will remain the same is also a tough question. Fergie has openly criticised Williams’ performance in his post-match interview and one could infer that he is considering making a change to the front two. However, if he is going to start Williams he has made an error giving him criticism to the press – it can only hinder his confidence and therefore his overall performance.
Prediction: Doncaster Rovers 1 – 1 Cambridge United (Marquis)
I just can’t see Rovers snatching a win here, we don’t really have the ability up front or in defence right now. It is about time Marquis snatched a goal though, he has impressed me in every game so far and I think once he gets one goal he will get many more this season. This might be impossible if Williams remains in the team however – he needs a quicker striker to play alongside.
The first home game of the 2016/17 season really doesn’t fill me with optimism…
With the first two games Rovers have played both ending with conceding crushing goals in extra time, and the injury list being unbelievably long, Darren Ferguson and his team really need to pull their fingers out and try to secure a win on Saturday. Hopefully, however, we might actually be in with a chance.
The last time Rovers faced Crawley Town was during the 2014/15 season on the 10th February. Rovers ended up winning 5-0, with one of the goal scorers being Curtis Main. It is therefore no surprise that the reds got relegated during that season. Last season, Crawley finished 20th in League 2, escaping the relegation zone by 13 points. This season they have started relatively well though, defeating injury-ridden Wycombe Wanderers 1-0 with skipper Jimmy Smith snatching the lead. It is important to note that despite making several new signings over the summer, the Red Devils are still 4th favourites to be relegated to the conference this season.
In terms of team news, Rovers’ squad is still looking relatively thin. Keegan, Baudry and McSheffery aren’t quite fully fit, but are getting very close to making the squad. When it comes to goalkeepers, Fergie has quite a challenge on his hands as neither Marosi or Etheridge have had stellar performances in the two opening games – I genuinely don’t know who he will pick.
The second half of Tuesday’s performance (bar the last minute goal) was a breath of fresh air and Rovers genuinely took control of the game. The Rovers side looked much more impressive than it did at Accrington with newly fit Joe Wright taking control of our defence in an impeccable fashion. The addition of Mandeville in the team also added an element of pace that is lacking where our other strikers are concerned and would definitely compliment John Marquis. Perhaps Mandeville will be brought in for Williams who appears to be struggling with confidence issues (again) of late, after his penalty miss at Accrington.
Prediction: Doncaster Rovers 2 – 1 Crawley Town (Rowe, Marquis)
One can only hope that we build on our decent performance against a Championship side, stop conceding such crushing late goals and kick-start the promotion push we all want and expect this season.
It always feels a little anticlimactic for the first home game to be a cup game but Nottingham Forest is a local derby of sorts so there should at least be a decent attendance and atmosphere.
Rovers have met Forest in the league cup before of course, most famously resulting in an 8-0 defeat at Belle Vue. Rovers will be hoping for a more respectable result this time round but will need to pick themselves up after a disappointing opening day defeat at Accrington Stanley.
Forest fared better in their opening game, overcoming newly promoted Burton Albion 4-3 at the City Ground. Hoping to start against Rovers will be former Everton striker Apostolos Vellios who arrived at Forest for a fee over £1 million. Elsewhere, former Rovers centre back Matt Mills could feature, whilst ex premier league stars Henri Lansbury (Arsenal) and Eric Lichaj (Aston Villa) will also be in contention.
This game may come too early for Paul Keegan, but Harry Middleton could continue his surprise return to fitness with a starting berth. Rovers have signed 12 new players this summer so Darren Ferguson has the squad depth to rotate. The worry is that Fergie seems to want to persevere with the 5-3-2 formation that saw us relegated last season so it will be interesting to see how we turn out against Forest with the pressure slightly off.
It doesn’t seem long ago that Rovers were beating Forest with both teams in the Championship so it is a shame that such a huge gulf has opened between the two sides. A victory on Tuesday night would not close that gap but it would at least restore some much needed pride and give a glimmer of hope to a long suffering fan base.
Match Prediction: DRFC 1-3 Nottingham Forest (Williams)
Andy Williams has been well backed to score a bagful of goals this season but Forest should have too much for Rovers unless they play a bunch of kids.
So it begins again. The joy, sorrow and insanity of the football season. 46 games over 9 months where only a few things are certain: we are going to moan, we are going to be very cold, and at the end of it all, whether we finish 1st or 24th, we’re going to be wishing our summer away begging for it to come back so we can do it all over again.
This year, we’ve wished our summers away so that we can wake up on Saturday morning and cross the country to go to Accrington. Call us mad they may, but this promises to be a great occasion with many intriguing questions set to be answered. How will the Rovers adapt to life back in the basement tier? Will Accrington be as formidable as they were last term? Will we actually have eleven men fit to play in the game?
That last one has been the main talking point over the last couple of weeks. A ludicrous run of bad luck has befallen the club before a ball has even been kicked in a competitive setting, with no less than four players going off injured in a friendly with Newcastle and several more hitting the treatment room, severely depleting the manager’s available resources.
New defensive maestro Mathieu Baudry will not have recovered from an achilles injury in time to make his debut at Accrington, whilst fellow new boy Joe Wright is also a fitness concern. Long serving midfielder Paul Keegan is also out, as is Gary McSheffrey. Joe Wright may be fit to make his debut against his former club, and there should also be Rovers bows for Matty Blair and John Marquis. Luke McCullough joins all those previously mentioned on the treatment table with a season ending injury.
Another Accrington old boy now in the hoops, or rather not in the hoops as he’s a goalkeeper, is Ross Etheridge. The young stopper impressed in the Stanley side that surprised everyone to make the play offs last season, and looks certain to be the new first choice between the sticks for Darren Ferguson this season.
Accrington themselves have been busy replenishing their squad this summer after losing several key men, including Etheridge. Josh Windass and Matt Crooks have departed north of the border to Rangers, with Arron Davies and Elliot Parish coming in to the new look squad, among others. Manager John Coleman has a tough task to emulate the superb efforts of his team in 2015/16, but only time will tell if they are up to that challenge.
Both sides will field unfamiliar line-ups this weekend that will need time to gel together, but it is always an exciting time of year when the season gets underway so hold on to that hope, and tell yourself that it can’t possibly go as wrong as it did last year.
My only previous trip to Bootham Crescent came during our glorious league winning season of 03-04. Unfortunately the day will forever live in ignominy as the away end toilets were broken, which resulted in a steady stream of brown coloured water collecting at the bottom of the terraces. On their return to York, Rovers will be without their own shit puddle, Aaron Taylor-Sinclair, due to injury.
Joining ATS on the treatment table are (deep breath): Mathieu Baudry, Joe Wright, Harry Middleton, Craig Alcock, Gary McSheffrey and, of course, Paul Keegan. The injury situation at the Keepmoat has become so grim that a proposed friendly game against Kidderminster had to be postponed, much to the relief of anyone that had taken leave of their senses and had been toying with the idea of attending a pre season match between Doncaster Rovers and Kidderminster Harriers.
York City were sadly relegated out of the football league last season, finishing bottom of the league in the process. The Minstermen have since acted swiftly to force an upturn in fortunes this summer, bringing in no less than 15 new faces, with 14 players leaving the club, including former Rovers loanee Michael Ingham.
Our Yorkshire cousins received a 6-0 shellacking from Middlesbrough in their first pre season game but have since recorded a comfortable 3-0 victory over Stalybridge Celtic before succumbing to a 2-0 defeat at Bolton. Rovers will be looking to build on their impressive performance in the 2-2 draw against Newcastle United but preventing further injuries will probably be Darren Ferguson’s main priority. The injury to Harry Middleton is particularly galling as this season is vital to the academy graduates progress. If there is one silver lining to Middleton’s injury, the fact that it pushes a move for Paul Green ever closer, is surely it.
Whilst friendly games should always be taken with a pinch of salt, York City were a League 2 club last season so this should be a good opportunity for Rovers to gage the potential performance levels of some of our divisional rivals.
Rovers welcome a second North East club to the Keepmoat in as many games as the magpies of Newcastle head south for this fixture. Both sides tasted the bitter disappointment of relegation last season, and there will be a plethora of new faces on both team sheets for this one.
Darren Ferguson got to see his new-look defence tested for the first time in a 2-0 defeat to Premier League new boys Middlesbrough on Saturday, Tyler Garratt starting at left back with youth team prospect Reece Fielding also featuring. Thus far, the manager has been trying out the diamond formation in midfield with Tommy Rowe at the point, whilst Riccardo Calder impressed on the left hand side as a half time substitute against Boro.
The midfield is still missing Paul Keegan due to a minor injury, but centre half Joe Wright could be available to make his first appearance in the hoops on Wednesday night, as could Luke McCullough fresh off his enlightening trip to Ibiza following the European Championships.
It should be another good crowd after nearly 3,000 turned up to catch a glimpse of former Barcelona superstar Victor Valdes, although they instead had to make do with George Friend and Mustapha Carayol, and the star names keep on coming as Rafa Benitez, one of the biggest managers in world football, brings his big guns to the Keepmoat.
Matt Ritchie scored a superb debut goal in a friendly with Bohemians of Ireland at the weekend, and fellow new signing Dwight Gayle was also on the score sheet. There were also goals for Dutch international Gini Wijnaldum and tricky winger Rolando Aarons, although Aarons went off injured soon after netting and is a doubt for this game.