If you’re anything like me then you’ll be currently sat in a friend’s flat in East London, straining through a hangover to pen something approaching a match preview for an occasionally read website. Not only that, but you will be both delighted and a little unnerved by the prospect of this weekend’s game. Delighted because firstly its the FA Cup, which always perks up my match attendance, and secondly because it’s a rare chance to both stand on a terrace and not have to work out where I’m collecting my ticket from. Unnerved because you still can’t get used to the fact that our FA Cup season starts in the third round and that we are the ones at the mercy of the underdogs.
Yep, not only are we starting our Road to Wembley a quarter of the way down the street, but should we lose at this stage it will be considered an upset. Not much of an upset granted, as we have already ruined the dreams of Brentford fans hoping for a big name cup opponent, sorry folks. Some Brentford fans demanded a re-draw when their club was paired with Doncaster Rovers in the third round, but then so did some Rovers fans. I blame all this ‘most famous Cup competition in the world’ publicity, for allowing us all to believe that the Cup inevitably pitches us against Chelsea or Manchester United, and of course Andy Townsend, but then I blame him for most things.
A week ago Rovers would have come storming into this tie, fuelled on an impressive defensive mettle, and the predatory goalscoring excellence of Billy Sharp. A professional run of four wins from four had catapulted Donny to 11th in the Championship table and they were looking like just as damaging a Cup opponent on form as historical reputation. However, the wheels came off somewhat at Coventry on Boxing Day as Doncaster were disjointed; passing well and defending reasonably, but never adding managing to link these aspects to anything approaching an attacking element.
So Rovers will arrive at Griffin Park as a losing side to face a Brentford team who will rightly fancy their chances in this tie. The Bees come into this game in 11th place in League One and unbeaten in their last four matches bookended by encouraging draws against runaway division leaders Leeds United and fellow challengers Charlton Athletic. An unbeaten run of nine games at home means Rovers can expect to face confident opponents and at least two uses of the word ‘fortress’ in the matchday programme.
Three seasons ago Rovers triumphed 1-0 in an FA Cup tie at Brentford, despite finding the net twice as the match officials failed to spot that Mark McCammon’s shot travelled through an unusually large hole in the goal net. Had I not been so hungover I would have made more of an effort to weave that last statement into the body of this report, but frankly I haven’t had enough sleep for that sort of thought process. OK, that’s enough of this, someone open a window, I’ve got some ‘league form’ to throw out of it.
You’ll never guess what, I just had a quick look on the BBC website and there is a rumour that Steve Brooker may not be fit for this game. I know, I know it’s a heavy note on which to start 2010, but we’ll soldier on. Also unlikely to feature are Martin Woods who is still out due to a groin injury, which suggests he had a hectic social Christmas, and Quinton Fortune who is also injured in an unreported kind of way. Sean McDaid might be included with it being a Cup tie but we wouldn’t recommend putting any money on that.
The great news for Rovers fans though is of course that Jason Shackell has not only signed for the club on loan until the end of the season, but is available to take part in this match. With nothing to suggest otherwise we also assume Billy Sharp is available for selection though admittedly we also assumed Monday’s match would have been on. Further good news for the year ahead is the likely return of captain Brian Stock, an unused sub at Coventry on Boxing Day he will surely play some part in this fixture.
Whilst Rovers have retained Shackell Brentford will have to do without their own on loan defender Pim Balkestein after he was recalled by his employees Ipswich Town. Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is unavailable owing to a strained pronunciation with James Wilson and Mark Phillips also doubtful to feature. Charlie McDonald does return though and is set to play for the Bees.
Predicted Doncaster Rovers line-up
(4-3-2-1) Neil Sullivan; James Chambers, James O’Connor, Jason Shackell, Gareth Roberts; John Oster, Brian Stock, Mark Wilson; Jamie Coppinger, Dean Shiels; Billy Sharp
subs: Ben Smith, Byron Webster, Sam Hird, Simon Gillett, John Spicer, James Hayter, Lewis Guy
Travelling to the Game
Terracing. Thats one word that should have you desperate to attend this game. If that one doesn’t seal the deal then here are four more; pay-on-the-gate. Yep, no more queues at the ticket office or awkward delivery arrangements, nor fancy barcode scanners wishing you a Merry Christmas a la Coventry. Nope, just a turnstile, and a jovial Londoner taking your money. Its how football, or even a well-ordered mugging, should be.
If you’re driving to London for this game you are a braver man than me, but that has little to do with the capital city traffic, and more to do with the fact I can’t drive. The most straight forward route in is probably to take the M25 round to the M4 in to London. Leave the M4 at junction 2 and then take the A4 and left onto Ealing Road. After that you get to play parking roulette in the various resident bays of the streets surrounding Griffin Park.
If you’re on public transport Brentford is unsurprisingly the nearest overground station, accessed by trains from Waterloo. On the tube the nearest stop to Griffin Park is South Ealing on the Piccadilly line. The tube station is a fifteen minute walk from the ground straight down Ealing Road. And if you want a drink before the game then just head to the ground as famously there is a pub in each of Griffin Park’s four corners. Rovers fans are housed in the Brook Road Stand behind the goal, and as well as the lower terracing we’ve also got the upper standing for those who aren’t feeling old school enough.
If you can’t make it to the match, but still want to keep abreast of what’s going on at Griffin Park then fear not as Viva Rovers is here to help. As with other recent games we will be bringing you live updates of the game in 140 characters or less through our twitter feed. If you are one of the twitterati, and lets face it you should be what with it being 2010 now, I mean not understanding Twitter is so 2009, then you can get all the latest by following @vivarovers. And if you are less swayed by social media interaction then fear not, you can still get the same updates by checking the Twitter Updates box on the right hand side of this site.
If its live commentary you want then your best option come Saturday afternoon is to follow the match on Rovers Player (formerly Rovers World) with the ever entertaining Paul Mayfield. If that doesn’t light your New Years’ firework, then we’d recommend keeping an eye on BBC’s Score Interactive show on television (and would also recommend hitting mute when Garth Crooks is on) or the BBC’s online Live Text service. BBC Radio Sheffield should also have live updates from the match. The sad news though is that ITV have the rights to the FA Cup, so all highlights will be on that channel, probably being patronised by Andy Townsend.