They say a week is a long time in politics, well its nothing compared to four days in football management. At about 1:20pm on Saturday afternoon most Rovers fans were walking in an O’Driscoll wonderland with Rovers leading 2-0 at Scunthorpe. However two red cards, and two goals conceded late in that match and a subsequent uninspiring goalless home draw with Swansea has left some folks suggesting that the manager should go. There really is nowt so queer as folk.
Of course when I say folk, I mean your token messageboard poster really which is actually a whole different concept. Suggestions, which I should point out are only coming from a minority of fools, that Sean O’Driscoll has not progressed on last year are frankly ludicrous. No one has bettered last season’s finish in a generation, and without Sean O’Driscoll’s methods and resilience we would be plying our trade this season in League One. There is no-one better equipped to be manager of Doncaster Rovers than Sean O’Driscoll and the sooner people realise that the better.
Anyway, enough of the ramblings of fools and back to the matter in hand. Bramall Lane awaits us. Greasy Chip Butties, Sean Bean, the Blades and all that. Oh and Sheffield United themselves of course. Last season it was honours even; they won at our place, we won at theirs, though most Rovers fans would settle for a trip back on the Trans Pennine Express with a point. Rovers have only won once this season, but having lost only twice. Get your money on a draw we say, but then we always say that.
Last season’s trip to Bramall Lane was very much a clash of footballing cultures; ying and yang. Rovers yinged it neatly around the midfield whilst United yanged it straight up front. Sean O’Driscoll adjusted his tactics perfectly; a central defensive three mopped up the Blades’ aerial bombardment whilst the rest of the side retained the ball and frustrated the opposition and the Bramall Lane crowd. In the end Rovers snatched a win; a victory for fluid football if you’re into pontificating on these sort of things.
It’s a different prospect this time round though. Sheffield United have lessened the direct nature of their approach play and Rovers are without the fulcrum of their midfield. With Brian Stock out the pressure shifted onto Rovers recently added experience to carry things on; unfortunately they elected to carry things on at Scunthorpe like they were in an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon and now with Quinton Fortune and John Oster suspended it’s a particularly lean month in the Rovers midfield. There is still talent there, but once you take out the axis you can’t expect everything else to orbit as normal.
Rovers ever mounting list of unavailability means that Steve Brooker and Sean McDaid have spent much of this week in the medical room loft trying to remember where they kept the emergency chairs. Joining the eternally injured twosome for lunch sat on a variety of temporary furniture this Saturday will be Brian Stock, now expected to play no further part this year with an ankle injury. Jamie Coppinger also remains a doubt whilst Quinton Fortune and John Oster remain suspended from their dismissals at Scunthorpe and Billy Sharp pulls up a deckchair as Rovers have agreed not to let the on loan forward play against his parent club.
The good news, is that so far today no-one else has become unavailable, although that news is tempered by the fact I am writing this ay 9:00am. However, Jason Shackell has been back in training and may feature. On both Rovers visits to Sheffield last season Sean O’Driscoll went for five at the back and given that it worked well he is likely to take the same approach for this game, particularly to combat the aerial threat of United’s forwards.
Sheffield United have a few injury worries of their own coming into this game with striker Jamie Ward unavailable due to a hamstring injury, though whether he would have started anyway is debatable. Matt Kilgallon and defender Gary Naysmith are also ruled out through injury according to the BBC, but then they also say that Scunthorpe is in Yorkshire on their match preview so I would seek a second opinion if I were you.
Predicted Rovers line-up
(5-3-1-1) Neil Sullivan; James Chambers; Sam Hird, Jason Shackell, Adam Lockwood, Gareth Roberts; John Spicer, Mark Wilson, Martin Woods; Jamie Coppinger; James Hayter
subs: Ben Smith, James O’Connor, Byron Webster, Waide Fairhurst, Dean Shiels, Lewis Guy, Paul Heffernan
Travelling to the Game
I’ll not insult your intelligence by telling you how to get down the road, though for those travelling by train the ground is about a fifteen minute walk from Sheffield station. Turn left as you leave the station and head up the main road, taking the right fork onto Shoreham Street. Then presumably follow the trail of greasy chip butties and folk mumbling “Oh its a grumble about the Blades”. For those wanting to enjoy a pint before the game the best bet is probably to remain in the city centre and then head toward the ground nearer kick-off.
Those Rovers fans collecting or purchasing tickets on the day need to head to the Halliwells Stand (the only football stand in the country named after a Spice Girl, except for Exeter’s Scary Terrace obviously) where the away fans will be housed. And a couple of ticket windows can be found near the turnstiles.
BBC Radio Sheffield is covering this match live, as well it ought to, so that’s the Yorkshire Rovers sorted. Sadly Football League rules mean that this coverage is not available online, so if its commentary you want and you’ll pay the price its Rovers Player for the exiles. If however you’re happy with live text updates then you’ll be wanting Viva Rovers. Either by following @vivarovers on twitter or by checking the ‘twitter updates’ box on the right hand side of this page you can keep up to date with regular text updates of the action.
Also in Action
For the early riser there’s a chance to see the two teams represented in a less glorious setting although with arguably less direct football on show. Supporters teams the Donny R’sonists and Sheffield InterBlades are kicking off at 10:30am at Sheffield United Cricket Club. The R’sonists won 5-3 when the two sides met at the end of August and these matches are always good natured close affairs so if you’re in the area, why not pop along and lend your support to another Doncaster side.