OK, ok, I know its a rubbish title, but I was determined to avoid mentioning Sven Goran Eriksson so early in the preview, and I used all the good ones when these two teams met last year. It is indeed a year ago this week that I was dealt a dose of footballing realism. “You should come and see Rovers play again,” I had been telling a mate from Uni, “they’re playing some incredible football, its brilliant to watch”. So come he did, as a new Nottingham resident, to Meadow Lane last year. And inevitably Rovers were poor, the game was poor, Notts County won and to compound it all the extra-time meant I missed the last train home and had to sleep on the aforementioned friend’s sofa, no doubt keeping him awake as I yelled out in my sleep, “but they have been playing well… they can pass a ball… its not all in my head I swear”.
Anyway, personal trauma aside, last year’s meeting between these two teams is as good a place as any to start, because to the casual observer Notts County’s 1-0 win that night represented an upset. Which of course, on a plain facts basis it was; team from League Two defeats team from the Championship. But the thing about Notts County is that I think of them as a bigger club than our own. I remember them as a top flight side, I remember them storming to the Division Three title as we were literally burning a hole in the bottom of it, and more noticeably, their ground is bloody massive. OK, maybe not massive, but a damn site bigger than ours anyway. And the way they outplayed us on the night meant the whole thing did not have the ‘scrappy upstart upstages the established order’ feel that a genuine cup upset should.
And all this came before Sven. In all honesty I’ve always been surprised that Notts County have not attracted investors sooner. Great stadium, potentially big fan-base, and a very marketable club history as the oldest professional club. That said any sensible Notts County fan would do well not to get swept up in the media hyperbole surrounding the appointment of a certain ex-England manager. The name Munto Finance to me does not suggest untold riches and a bright future, instead it rests somewhere between the sort of company who promise daytime TV audiences to ‘consolidate all their debts into one managable payment’ and the name of the bank manager in ‘Ivor the Engine’. It may all look rosy now, but at this stage I’d be unwilling to rule out the possibility that the main man behind Munto Finance is actually a twenty-nine year old shelf-stacker still living with his parents in Burton Joyce.
Doubts and warnings aside, let us return to the match in hand. Notts County, complete with much touted new Director of Football Sven Goran Eriksson got off to a perfect start to the new season on Saturday with a 5-0 win over Bradford City at Meadow Lane. New signing, and supposed January transfer target of Doncaster Rovers, Lee Hughes scored a hat-trick and will provide a sizable test to Rovers back-line alongside Luke Rodgers who is another proven lower league striker. Other familiar faces include goalkeeper Russell Hoult who played in the top flight with Derby County and West Brom and two former Doncaster favourites.
Graeme Lee signed for County on a free transfer from Bradford City in June, the former Rovers captain endeared himself to Doncaster fans by scoring the winner against Scunthorpe on his debut and also heading the winning goal in the 2007 Johnstones Paint Trophy Final. Born and raised in Doncaster Ricky ‘red card’ Ravenhill joined his hometown club in January 2002 after a stint as a youth player at Barnsley. Ravenhill went on to make just short of 160 appearances for the Rovers as they rose from Conference to League One, eventually moving on to Grimsby three years ago. Both Ravenhill and Lee should be fondly acknowledged by the Rovers fans on Tuesday night.
Team-wise Notts County will be without midfielder Ben Davies who came off during Saturday’s game with a hamstring problem. Rovers have no new injury worries, although Steve Brooker, Sean McDaid and Jos Van Nieuwstadt remain in the treatment room with the same problems that kept them from the trip to Watford. However, the squad could be boosted with the addition of Byron Webster and Quinton Fortune as the two players were ruled out of Saturday’s match as they still awaited international clearance from the Czech and Belgian FAs respectively. Rovers fans can expect Sean O’Driscoll to try a few of the less regular players in this fixture so expect the likes of John Oster, Waide Fairhurst and Lewis Guy to feature along with Fortune and Webster.
Those making the trip to Nottingham for this one are advised that tickets cannot be bought in advance for the away section of Meadow Lane, instead fans can pay on the day at the turnstile. Tickets are priced at £10 for adults and £5 for concessions, whatever thay may include. For those not going I’m afraid that we will not be running our much hearlded Viva Rovers matchday tweet updates. So instead you will have to seek coverage elsewhere, the best option is probably BBC Radio Sheffield or BBC Radio Nottingham which should both be available via the BBC website.