So, if at first you don’t succeed try and try again. Tonight Doncaster Rovers make a third attempt to play their FA Cup third round tie at Griffin Park after frozen ground and a covering snow forced postponements on the 2nd and 12th January respectively. The poor weather has at least given Rovers an anomalistic existence in this season’s competition, as the only side still in the FA Cup yet to have played a fixture. The groundstaff of Brentford have worked hard since then though; snow has been shovelled, covers removed and all to reveal a glorious, sodden and bobbly pitch. Isn’t that what cup ties are about?
Rovers last faced Brentford three seasons ago, with an FA Cup tie at Griffin Park amongst three meetings in the 2006/07 season. Doncaster found the net twice that afternoon, but won just 1-0 as Mark McCammon’s header escaped via a hole in the side-netting and went unseen by the match referee. Thankfully a goal from Lewis Guy meant major controversy (well OK then slight controversy) was avoided. And there’s a chance that Guy could feature tonight should Sean O’Driscoll choose to shuffle his pack for the Cup.
After an unscheduled mid-season break of three weeks Rovers returned to action in impressive form on Saturday with a 2-1 win over Watford. With Championship parity starting to look more and more likely on current league form then the Rovers fanbase would certainly welcome a rare FA Cup run. Last season’s replay defeat to Aston Villa represented Rovers’ first forray into the fourth round of the competition since the infamous defeat at Everton in 1985.
Brentford of course lurk a division below Rovers but there will be no complacency, particularly as many of the signs point in The Bees’ favour. The West London club are in form having gone five games without defeat and most notably perhaps it is ten games since anyone came away from Griffin Park with any more than a point and an anecdote about four pubs. As the 2005 Sunderland side will testify, the Bees are more than capable of stinging someone much bigger than the Rovers.
Should tonight’s match be drawn then the two sides will try again this Saturday. A win for either will see them travel to Pride Park, Derby for a fourth round tie instead, but whatever happens tonight at least we can all delight that we were in this year’s competition longer than Manchester United or Liverpool.
Though Rovers duo Jason Shackell and Brian Stock were ushered out of the game carrying slight knocks on Saturday the BBC at least still expect them to start. Personally I can see Sean O’Driscoll offering two of his star turns a rest and so would expect John Spicer and Sam Hird to come into the starting line-up. Unsurprisingly Steve Brooker, Martin Woods, Quinton Fortune, Sean McDaid all remain unavailable.
Brentford have eligibility problems hampering their preparations with the on-loan duo of ‘keeper Wojciech Szczesny and defender Tommy Smith both refused permission to take part by their parent clubs. Welsh international Lewis Price is expected to take over between the posts whilst Sam Saunders could be in line for a place following a recent injury.
Predicted Doncaster Rovers line-up
(4-3-2-1) Neil Sullivan; James Chambers, James O’Connor, Sam Hird, Gareth Roberts; John Oster, John Spicer, Mark Wilson; Jamie Coppinger, Dean Shiels; Billy Sharp
subs: Ben Smith, Byron Webster, Mustapha Dumbaya, Brian Stock, James Hayter, Lewis Guy, Paul Heffernan
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 you’re in good company as neither can we, so Viva Rovers patented twitter feed will be done on a second hand basis. For these occassional and possibly mis-informed updates simply follow @vivarovers on twitter or keep an eye on the Twitter Updates box at thr ight of this page.
If its live commentary you want then your best option is to follow the match on Rovers Player (formerly Rovers World) with the ever entertaining Paul Mayfield. If that doesn’t put quite enough magic in your cup, then we’d recommend keeping an eye on 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 match highlights will be on that channel, probably being patronised by Andy Townsend.