The double headed defeat to Barnsley last season was of particular annoyance to us at Viva Towers. In the summer of 2008 we churlishly launched a new range of t-shirts including one offering a not so sly dig at our near neighbours which read; “The Championship – 44 Cup Finals and two games against Barnsley.” Launched off the back of four successive league victories over the Tykes in League One it never once struck us as foolhardy marketing, but then we were young and naive back then, and we were taught an emphatic lesson by Jemal Campbell-Ryce.
At Oakwell last season the Barnsley winger scored probably the best goal I have ever witnessed. I can name better goals seen on television and have trawled YouTube enough to be able to champion a mélange of sensational strikes, but there is only that long box to box run from Campbell-Ryce of which I can say I was there. However, as it was one of four goals scored against Rovers by a Barnsley side reduced to ten men I had, until writing this preview, kicked it down the fire escape of my memory and dumped it in a skip of things best forgotten, alongside a 3-1 defeat at Boston, my sole attempt at karaoke and Wales matches under John Toshack.
Last season Barnsley finished six points away from Championship relegation, the total they also took off Rovers. This season they began like a team who sensed they were on borrowed time and a string of lacklustre performances meant the end of the line for manager Simon Davey. In his place has come Mark Robins, a man no stranger to South Yorkshire managerial acheivement and the Tykes have been rejuvinated. Two wins thus far, including a 3-1 triumph over the impressive West Brom.
Whether Barnsley and the Robins will be tested away from Oakwell remains to be seen though their confidence will be helped by the prospect of facing a Rovers team as threadbare as Andy Townsend’s tactical nous. Simon Gillett joined the club on loan in the week and could possibly go straight into the starting line-up with Sean O’Driscoll struggling to locate enough players to fill the bench. So stretched are Rovers that the previously mythical figure of Stuart Elliott, a long established team sheet urban legend, was brought out of storage to act as a substitute at Sheffield United.
The onus in that game at Bramall Lane was clearly, and understandably, consolidation. However, should O’Driscoll’s side display similar reservation at home to a local rival then the Keepmoat Stadium crowd will be none too impressed. Whilst the underlying aim at present is to ride out this injury and suspension crisis losing as few points as possible a win in this fixture will give much more patience in the stands as this plan is born out.
It’s all getting very crowded in the Rovers medical room of late, with long term residents Steve Brooker and Sean McDaid being kept busy providing nibbles and drinks for all their guests. Currently holed up alongside Brooker and McDaid are a further four players; Adam Lockwood and Byron Webster are on the couch, the latter side-lined by a hyper-extended elbow, which if you’ve watched as many Inspector Gadget cartoons as us sounds cool, but was actually very painfully inflicted by ‘Dastardly’ Darius Henderson. Also taking advantage of Brooker and McDaid’s hospitality are crocked midfielders Brian Stock and Mark Wilson. Quinton Fortune and John Oster may also pop round for a cuppa as they both remain suspended for respective daft self induced red-cards at Scunthorpe.
The good news though is three players previously absent are all back in the squad. James Hayter has recovered from the dead leg suffered at Bramall Lane whilst Billy Sharp who missed that fixture in view of being on loan from Rovers’ opponents also returns. Jamie Coppinger is back too from injury and could start as too may new loan signing Simon Gillett who arrived from Southampton at the start of the week. With Ben Smith now out on loan young Gary Woods will probably take over the role as Neil Sullivan’s deputy.
Visiting manager Mark Robins has much less to contend with as he chooses his third Barnsley line-up since taking over at Oakwell. Bobby Hassell has returned to training following his recent injury but is unlikely to feature. However, according to the BBC, Emil Halfredsson should be available despite a knee problem.
Predicted Rovers Line-up
(4-3-2-1) Neil Sullivan; James O’Connor, Sam Hird, Jason Shackell, James Chambers; John Spicer, Simon Gillett, Martin Woods; Jamie Coppinger, James Hayter; Billy Sharp
subs: Gary Woods, Mustapha Dumbaya, Gareth Roberts, Dean Shiels, Waide Fairhurst, Lewis Guy, Paul Heffernan
Travelling to the Game
Though you’ll find little of help on the official Rovers website away fans can get a wealth of information on Doncaster’s ground from us by clicking on the ‘Keepmoat Stadium’ tab at the top of the page. On there Barnsley fans will find advice on which route to steer their pit pony to the Stadium and advice on where to tie it up as well as directions from the train station for those jumping on the last coal train out of Grimethorpe. Suggested matchday pubs and advice on where to collect tickets can also be found here.
BBC Radio Sheffield are covering this game live if you cannot make it down to the Keepmoat Stadium, but sadly Football League rules mean this commentary is not accesible by listening online. Instead if those outside SY want live coverage they’ll need to fork out for Rovers Player, though Paul Mayfield is now involved in it’s production and anything he does gets the thumbs up from us.
Alternatively you can get live text updates of the game courtesy of us at Viva Rovers. If you follow us on Twitter (@vivarovers) or simply track the Twitter Updates box on the right of this screen you’ll get regular updates of all that’s going on this afternoon, including Geoff’s choice whinges and occasional copyright breaching photography. How can you say no to that?
Also In Action
Like nothing better than spending your Saturday mornings stood in a field watching twenty-two men of dubious talents ungainly booting a ball about in faint connection to the teams they support? Yes? Then you’re in luck. Down at Cantley Park on the morning of the game fans’ football team the Donny R’sonists will be taking on the Barnsley Supporters. Kick off is at 10:30, feel free to stop by and cheer them on or just point and laugh, it’s your weekend, who are we to tell you what to do?