Altogether now; “if you wanna be a record breaker… dedication’s what you need”. If Rovers can point to anything that has lifted them to where they are in the table then they’ll be gesturing their index fingers towards their away form. Saturday 22nd September and a 3-2 defeat at Southend’s Roots Hall is the last time Rovers returned from an away game empty handed. Since then a club record equalling eleven away matches unbeaten have brought Doncaster twenty-three points; lifting the club from seventeenth to second.
On Saturday Rovers travel to Brunton Park looking to maintain that run of form and break the club record against fellow promotion challengers Carlisle United. Understandably the long trip north has not dissuaded many Rovers fans from joining the cause; all 800 tickets for the away end have gone for what could be a vital match in the pursuit of the Championship.
It was Carlisle who occupied second place in League One when the two clubs met at the Keepmoat Stadium last month. On that day Rovers ran the Cumbrians ragged, but had to rely on a scrambled late goal via the knee of James Hayter to take all three points. Subsequent defeats at Cheltenham and Oldham have dropped United to fourth but they remain very much in the hunt for promotion.
Both sides coming into this match haven been given something of a winter break. Rovers were unable to beat the frost for their midday derby date with Leeds last weekend, whilst Carlisle made the trip to Crewe only to be greeted with similar news on arrival. And a similar fate befell their midweek match with Nottingham Forest as Brunton Park too met the big freeze.
Rovers will be without the long term absentees James Hayter and Gordon Greer as well as the three players currently out on loan; Matt Noble, Graeme Lee and Martin Woods. Joining the missing list is forward Lewis Guy who has been ordered to rest by doctors after contracting glandular fever.
Assuming James O’Connor and Jamie Coppinger pass late fitness tests Sean O’Driscoll is expected to stick to the winning formula and line up that has brought six wins and six clean sheets in the last seven matches. However, Guy’s absence could offer a place in the squad for January signing Stuart Elliott.
Carlisle on the other hand have only two players missing for this game. Thanks to recent match postponements Chris Lumsden is still waiting to return from suspension and Paul Thirlwell is also unavailable having picked up a knock in training. Other than those two John Ward has a full squad to choose from, including former Scunthorpe United player Cleveland Taylor who joined the Cumbrians in the January transfer window.