Long time readers of Viva Rovers, or indeed any of you who have glanced at the ‘About’ section of this site, will understand why we’re not all that fond of S*y S****s. But whilst we may embrace Rupert Murdoch’s enterprise as warmly as Wayne Bridge would greet John Terry, Doncaster Rovers do have good reason to be fond of the satellite channel’s attention. Rovers have appeared in 22 games televised live on S*y and have lost just five of those fixtures.
The 2-0 home defeat to Birmingham City suffered by Rovers in their last televised outing was the club’s first ‘normal time’ defeat in front of the cameras in sixteen matches. OK so I’ve cunningly used the term ‘normal time’ to gloss over a penalty shootout loss to Arsenal, but that is the only anomaly. The last time watching television audiences saw Rovers beaten by anything other than spot-kicks was when Yeovil wrapped up the Conference with a 4-0 win at Belle Vue in April 2003. With the late arrival of a student loan preventing attendance I watched that match on a small soundless bar television whilst being consoled by the barmaid, my housemate, who kindly refilled my £1 pint of coke on the sly. We’ve all come a long way since then.
Thankfully I’ll be watching tonight’s fixture live and in 3D, and that’s because I’ve got a ticket. Rather than fighting neckless Worcestershire rugby fans for the remote I am en route to the Keepmoat as I type (hence the spelling mistakes), and hoping can recover from a devastatingly delivered sucker punch from Cardiff City. So impressive was Rovers’ second half display in the Welsh capital that they were clapped from the field by a large number of City fans after their own team had notched a cruel late winner via Jay Bothroyd’s head.
Despite the results and goings on at the Keepmoat in a past fortnight which has seen three defeats and two arrests, January was a good month for the Rovers. The club has held off the suitors courting it’s major attributes, as despite rumours masquerading as news to the contrary Sean O’Driscoll, Brian Stock and Martin Woods all remain with the club. And on top of that the club even held the transfer window far enough ajar to drag Shelton Martis through it on a long term deal. The signsa are all suggesting that Doncaster are planning to be in the Championship for the long haul.
Of course plans are nothing without results and after three defeats in a row Rovers actually come into today’s game off the back of their worst run of results all season. However, as shown in Cardiff last weekend, the performances are there and as Sean O’Driscoll is often at pains to reitorate if the team is playing as well as it can then the results will come. And who are we to doubt him?
After reaching the play-offs last season Reading have struggled to find themselves this campaign and have meandered through the Championship with a lost and bemused complection normally only seen on the faces of soap opera stars in unconvincing dream sequences. A fitting embodiment of Reading’s unfortunate season comes in the shape of Matt Mills – the defender garnered a fee of £2million when he left Rovers for bigger and better Berkshire things in the summer and now finds himself in the relegation zone. Reading may have prospered in the FA Cup but in the long run a win at Anfield is unlikely to make up for a season travelling League One’s outposts.
However those Cup wins do hint at a move to recovery though as The Biscuitmen (never The Royals on this site) are showing signs of life again under new manager Brian McDermott. The club’s victory over Barnsley last weekend, their second home win of the season, has nudged them in the right direction and they will arrive at the Keepmoat with confidence and history on their side. Reading have not lost to Rovers since 1984, though the nature of that defeat will have S*y S****s rubbing their hands. Doncaster beat Reading 7-4 that season, a repeat today probably the only way to get folk to turnover from the Six Nations rugby.
This week Steve Brooker’s injury lay-off edged into the world of slapstick as he managed that rare feat of suffering an injury whilst out injured. The problem is believed to have behin when Jamie Coppinger turned round whilst carrying a long plank of wood inadvertently catching Brooker on the ankle. The injury would have been a minor one only when Brooker opened the door on his jalopy to drive home it fell to pieces and the door landed on the same ankle.
Also unavailable to Sean O’Driscoll are central defenders Adam Lockwood, still sidelined by a foot injury, and Jason Shackell. However, Rovers now have additional cover in this area with new signing Shelton Martis expected to come straight into the side at the expense of Sam Hird. Martin Woods and Waide Fairhurst continue to edge back to fitness but neither is expected to feature.
Reading’s main absentee is Czech international midfielder Marek Matejovsky who is out with abdominal problems. The Biscuitmen will also be without the trio of Noel Hunt, Chris Armstrong and Julian Kelly. The good news for Brian McDermott is that Jem Karacan and Gylfi Sigurdsson are both expected to shake off injuries to return. Having missed the game at the Madejski Stadium in September Matt Mills could also be in line for a first on pitch reunion with the Rovers.
Predicted Rovers line-up
(4-3-2-1) Neil Sullivan; James Chambers, James O’Connor, Shelton Martis, Gareth Roberts; Mark Wilson, John Oster, Brian Stock; Jamie Coppinger, Dean Shiels; Billy Sharp
subs: Ben Smith, Sam Hird, Byron Webster, Jordan Mutch, James Hayter, Lewis Guy, Paul Heffernan
Travelling to the Game
This is Reading’s second visit to the Keepmoat Stadium so those fans who have decided to haul themselves off the sofa will probably know where they are heading. If not don’t panic as whilst the official club website is bereft of useful information on Doncaster’s stadium there is plenty on Viva Rovers. We even include directions from the train station for those taking their chances with Cross Country Trains. All this and information on away friendly pubs and where to pick up tickets at the ground can be found by clicking on the ‘Keepmoat Stadium’ tab at the top of the page.
I’m not sure if we’ve mentioned it yet but this match is being broadcast live on satellite television courtesy of Viva Rovers’ nemesis S*y S****s (and that’s not Shy Shorts as someone has already suggested). If you can’t fend off the rugby fans to take control of the remote then you can always settle for our patent pending live Twitter coverage. All the action and Geoff’s latest whinges in 140 characters at a time. If you’re on Twitter follow @vivarovers and if you’re not just refresh the Twitter Updates box on this site.
For not so tempremental coverage you will be able to pick up all the latest from the game courtesy of BBC Radio Sheffield, or online through the beeb’s live text service. And the other option is of course the subscription service from Rovers Player, now with added Paul Mayfield.