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match previews

Battering Rams? – Derby County preview

Firstly I’ll start by apologising for the delay in bringing you this match report. I had hoped to get it up online last night, but in view of today’s game I spent a busy afternoon shovelling league form out my window and tearing up form guides. Thankfully it was a one off occasion but blood and thunder all the same. Yes, its FA Cup fourth round tie, and as alien as it is for many of us Doncaster Rovers are still in the competition. We may have only played one tie to get here, but this round of the competition is as far as we’ve trodden since 1956 and today presents one of the best opportunities since to match that feat.

Derby fans are probably sick of the sight of us, and not just because our colour scheme matches that of irritatingly in-form rivals Nottingham Forest. Under Sean O’Driscoll Rovers have faced Derby on four occasions and emerged victorious every time. The first of those victories, a penalty shoot-out win after a 3-3 League Cup draw at Belle Vue in 2006 was O’Driscoll’s first win as Doncaster manager. Times have changed greatly since those opening months of his tenure at Rovers, but O’Driscoll is more feted now than he has ever been, the interest of Burnley perhaps making many Rovers fans just what a loss the boss would be. In Rovers two Championship seasons they have won all three meetings with Derby, the last of which came just a month ago with a smash and grab 2-0 raid of Pride Park.

Derby have been enduring a torrid time of late, with that 2-0 defeat to Rovers coming in the midst of a terrible run of results which also saw the side beaten 4-1 at home by Scunthorpe. A 3-0 win over a Peterborough side reduced to nine men has helped steady the on-pitch decline for a week or two, but off the field the news has been just as grim for Rams fans. News stories emerging yesterday suggest that the club has been put up for sale as they search for new investors. County reportedly need to raise £8million by the end of the month to pay off debts and as such the whole first team is effectively now transfer listed. Tough times for Nigel Clough, a man already under pressure.

Of course none of this should serve to make us dismiss any talk of a Derby victory in this tie. County may be six places below Rovers in the Championship, but such is the congested nature of that division this equates to just four points difference. County have a number of established and experienced players in their squad, and much talent too with Kris Commons likely to pose a significant threat to Rovers, as too will the Rams’ height advantage at set-pieces. Having said that, defensively Rovers have been in fine form, conceding just two goals since the end of November, and both of those have been scored from the penalty spot.

Derby captain Robbie Savage has had an odd build up to this game. It began with him taking a local journalist to task in a press conference, albeit unsuccessfully having dwelled on his one point so long he had effected squatters rights for it, and then followed a bizarre post-interview romp with an understandably frightened Ian Gwyn-Hughes of the BBC.  However, last weekend Sylian Petrov earned himself thousands more fans when a clearance of his during the Aston Villa v West Ham match managed to strike the face of Savage, who was co-commentating for the BBC at the time. Subsequently this clip then appeared on the BBC website this week with Savage offering his noggin for target practice to his team-mates. It was nice to see former Rover Paul Green putting particular effort into the task of booting a football at Robbie Savage’s visage. Meanwhile Rovers captain Brian Stock was busy, you know, playing football and stuff.

Back at the start of the season Via Rovers said (somewhere or another) that the sort of season we required to make us really happy, would involve Rovers finishing around the same position as last season, coupled with a decent FA Cup run. At current, all signs are pointing towards this being a distinct possibility, just so long as the threat of Derby today is not taken lightly. Win today and the club will be on course for one of it’s best ever seasons, so please don’t let this chance slip away Rovers, especially against a team who see fit to employ Paul Dickov.

Team News

OK, I don’t want to worry anyone, but I’ve just been to the medical room and Steve Brooker wasn’t there. No, seriously. There was his indentation in one of the treatment beds and his bag was in the corner, but there was no sign of him anywhere. I don’t want to cause undue alarm here, but I think he may be on the road to recovery. Still. With Rovers deciding against extending Quinton Fortune’s contract this week that means that technically the club has no injuries. Adam Lockwood, Sean McDaid and Martin Woods are all back in training, though none of the three will be expected to feature today with Sean O’Driscoll most likely to keep exactly the same team and bench as his last two fixtures. This should put Jamie Coppinger inline for his 200th start as a Rovers player.

Derby County will be without striker DJ Campbell, as Leicester City refuse to let the on-loan forward appear in the FA Cup. The BBC expect Steven Davies to start in the Rams attack, but joining him could be any one of Chris Porter, Rob Hulse, or Kris Commons. According to the Beeb defender Shaun Barker ‘is expected to shake off a knee injury’, which presumably means he’s available. Dean Leacock, Miles Addison and Mitch Hanson are all unavailable through injury.

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, John Spicer, James Hayter, Lewis Guy, Paul Heffernan 

Travelling to the Game

If you like your football experiences to be all shiny and corporate like then you’ll enjoy Pride Park, as much like the Keepmoat its situated on an industrial and retail estate and has all the mod-cons handily located in its own concourse. Rovers fans will be in the Winfield Construction (or South) Stand, and will be able to eat drink and be merry in the depths of it, though is not much for away fans nearby other than fast food outlets. If you’re collecting your tickets at the ground, then I hope you received more helpful instruction from the Rovers’ ticket office than I did. “Your ticket should be at the ground around lunchtime” were the precision arrangements I received, so look out for numerous Doncaster supporters confusedly circumnavigating Pride Park.

For those travelling by train the stadium is very easy to reach and is just ten minutes walk from Derby station. The County supporter I asked on the train there last season told me to “go right out the train station and just walk straight there”. It’s slightly more complicated than that, but not much. If you leave the station by the Roundhouse Road exit rather than the main one and follow the signs you’d do well not to get to the ground. And hang on to your ticket as they have installed electronic barriers at Derby station in the past year.

For those travelling by car leave the M1 at Junction 25 for the A52 and as you approach Derby the ground is signposted according to the ever reliable Football Ground Guide. There is limited matchday parking available near the stadium, but as you would expect it’s not all that cheap.

Match Coverage

Viva Rovers’ twitter followers and facebook fans will have noticed our desperate and foolhardy attempts to link the two mediums together this week. It was all done with the aim of being able to bring live match updates to our facebook page, but sadly it has not quite come off as hoped. Still, our twitter coverage will continue unabashed and will be in operation for this game. All the latest from Pride Park in dispatches of 140 characters or less. Simply follow @vivarovers on twitter to get this service direct, or alternatively keep an eye on the Twitter Updates box on the right edge of this site (and refresh it during the game).

If its live commentary you want then as ever you will have two options come Saturday afternoon, either somehow get near enough to Derbyshire to pick up BBC Radio Derby or follow the match on Rovers Player (formerly Rovers World) with the ever entertaining Paul Mayfield. And if none of these options float your boat then you could do worse than keeping an eye on BBC’s Score Interactive show on television, which is accessible via the red button, though beware that prolonged exposure to Gareth Crooks can cause shortsighted and long-winded onions. Alternatively BBC’s online Live Text service will describe the key points as they happen and BBC Radio Sheffield should also have live updates from the match. Highlights from this game should be on ITV, if you can stomach Andy Townsend.

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