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match previews

Avon Calling – Bristol City preview

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, I’m not sure who this ‘they’ are exactly but its clear that they never saw Busted’s version of The Undertones’ Teenage Kicks. Thankfully that’s not the imitation to which I refer, but it is always refreshing to see services originally offered here on Viva Rovers taken up by the club’s official website. Yesterday an article titled ‘Off to Ashton Gate?’ appeared on the Rovers website and contained the line; “From a postcode for your car’s SatNav through to the best place to have a pre-match pint – our Away Day Guide sorts you out”. If it’s so effective you have to wonder where it was for the other seven months of this season. If only someone had been offering this all season, and preferably without the unintentional encouragement to drink drive too.

That’s this week’s whinge out the way, now on to the football and its hard to know what to expect from Rovers this weekend. After a couple of impressive, effective and enjoyable back to back wins over Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest Doncaster have stuttered and turned in less than notable performances to lose to both Queens Park Rangers and Leicester City, before drawing with Crystal Palace on Saturday. What is worth noting is that when Rovers are playing at their best then a solid performance from Brian Stock can be found at its heart. Without their captain Doncaster are an unpredictable force, the tactics may not change on the whole, but the execution suddenly goes all Greg Louganis, its either brilliant or painfully wrong.

Unpredictable is probably a fair way of describing Bristol City this season, given that in the space of a month they managed to lose 6-0 at home to cross-Channel rivals Cardiff City and then defeat high-flying West Brom, both at Ashton Gate. One thing you can be sure of though is that should City be doing well then one man will be sure to take the credit. Gary Johnson is a noted for of this site ever since he gleefully accepted the praise for taking Latvia to the European Championships, two years after he’d left them in a worse position to when he had taken over. And if you think that’s a trivial concern, then you obviously missed out on Bounce-Gate.

Last season Johnson asked for more support from the Bristol City crowd and urged them to ‘bounce around’ more. That they did, whilst singing ‘Johnson said bounce around the ground’ to the tune of Yellow Submarine. Catchy and impressive. So catchy and impressive a number of Rovers fans did what they seem to be doing a lot these days, in copying it with a slight change of words. And when Bristol City fans found out, well, they were livid I tell you, livid. I daren’t repeat some of the words which were printed on rival fan message boards over this issue for fear of boring you to death, but my word they certainly were inconsequential. One thing that is amusing about the ‘Bounce around the Ground’ chant is that my sister after first hearing it did ask me who Disco Sid was. I was as confused as you are now until I realised she’d misheard the line ‘O’Driscoll said’.

Again I’ve digressed, back to the football once more and somehow, despite only winning two games since they lost to Rovers back in December, Bristol City are inexplicably a point above Doncaster in the Championship table. The fact that the Robins have become something of draw specialists this season may explain this, Johnson’s side have already drawn fifteen league games this season. It all points to a resiliency in the side, which suggests Rovers may have their work cut out to try and break down City. One thing Rovers will need to be wary of is the ability of Bristol City’s wide players to get on the score sheet, both Paul Hartley and Danny Haynes have found the target regularly this season and prove a useful foil to Chris Iwelumo and Nicky Maynard (if fit) up front.

City also boast pace at the back in the form of the relatively young centre back pairing of Lewin Nyatanga and Liam Fontaine, whilst the heart of their midfield boasts a small but significantly irritating presence in the form of Lee Johnson. A win for Rovers would put them ahead of City in the table and edge Doncaster marginally closer to the play-offs than the relegation spaces. However, aside from the anomaly of that 6-0 hammering from Cardiff, Bristol City have only been beaten once at Ashton Gate this season and so a win for Rovers would be a notable success.

Before the match there will be a minute’s applause for Keith Alexander, the Macclesfield Town manager who died earlier in the week. As a student in Lincoln I came into contact with Keith Alexander on a number of occasions and can honestly say that if more folk involved in football were as down to earth, approachable and generally likeable as he then the game would be in a much better state. Viva Rovers therefore encourages all to join in this show of appreciation prior to the game.

Team News

It never rains but it pours, well, pulls, tears or strains at least, for Rovers’ medical team. Rovers make the trip to Bristol without a number of key players. Captain Brian Stock is still out with the back injury which prevented him from winning a second international cap for Wales in midweek, whilst fellow midfielder Martin Woods is also absent, still recovering from a groin injury. Shelton Martis continues to suffer from the curse of the long term signing as his hamstring injury will rule him out and allow him to take a seat in the stands next to the ever injured Steve Brooker, who used to play for Bristol City and apparently once turned out for us too.

I’m done yet on the Rovers absentees by the way as central defenders Jason Shackell, Adam Lockwood and Byron Webster all remain injured as well.  Bristol City have at least five absentees of their own to deal with as Gary Johnson is without Marvin Elliott and Evander Sno, Jamie McAllister, Jamie McCombe and Brian Wilson. Nicky Maynard could recover from a thigh problem to return to the side as to might Ivan Sproule and Jamal Campbell-Ryce, but then what has he ever done in a match against us?

Predicted Doncaster Rovers line-up

(4-1-2-2-1) Neil Sullivan; James Chambers, James O’Connor, Elliott Ward, Gareth Roberts; Sam Hird; John Oster, Mark Wilson; Jamie Coppinger, James Hayter; Billy Sharp

subs: Ben Smith, Mustapha Dumbaya, Jordan Mutch, Jay Emannuel-Thomas, John Spicer, Dean Shiels, Lewis Guy

Travelling to the Game

I always refer to the excellent Football Ground Guide for information when compiling this section of the previews, anyone else doing so will probably notice the incredibly similar wording of their advice to that given on the Rovers website. If you’re reading this site and you work for Rovers media department please encourage your colleagues to at least have the decency to reference.

Anyway, the stringent advice given on The Football Ground Guide website for those travelling by train is to get a taxi from Temple Meads to the ground. However, if you’re feeling foolhardy or tight and I’ll be both tomorrow, here’s directions for making the journey by foot which will take around forty minutes. Leaving Temple Meads station turn left at the bottom of the station approach then right onto Clarence Road which runs alongside the River Avon. Cross the river at the first road bridge and then head down East Street with the large new block of flats on your left. Continue along East Street until you come to the junction with North Street (with HSBC on the corner) and turn right here, then left at the mini roundabout. This is North Street, continue along here, to the roundabout by the Hen & Chicken pub where you turn left onto Smyth Road. Take the right fork down the slope, then continue along Smyth Road, crossing Duckmoor Road, til you eventually come to Winterstoke Road. Turn right here and the ground will come into view ahead.

Those of you driving will need to get there early to get a spot on one of the many roads around the ground, or alternatively try and find an enterprising business on Winterstoke Road which is offering parking for a few quid. Directions for those travelling by car from pretty much any direction are to leave the M5 at Junction 18 and head along the A4 following signs for Bristol Airport. This becomes the A3029 as you cross the river, and then you need to take the left fork onto Winterstoke Road – you’ll see the ground on your left, though may want to carry on in search of parking.

Rovers fans will be housed in half of the Wedlock Stand behind the goal, which will offer a frankly poor view of the match thanks to a winning combination of a shallow incline, supporting roof pillars and a low roof. In the unlikely case that I’ve not sold it to you already, these factors do combine to allow visiting fans to make a decent racket however outnumbered they may be. Your typical football food is available inside the ground, though alcohol is not available to away fans, so lets hope the football is intoxicating enough.

Match Coverage

Good news folks, after a three game hiatus Viva Rovers’ as yet to be replicated by the official site live match twitter feed returns for this match. We’ll be in amongst the travelling Rovers fans at Ashton Gate and bringing you all the latest incidents, news and updates as live as my typing hand allows me in bursts of 140 characters or less. To take advantage of these updates either follow us (@vivarovers) via Twitter or alternatively if you are not a tweeter keep an eye on (and refresh) the Twitter Updates box on the right of this page during the game. 

For live commentary of this match it would seem its a case of official website or bust I’m afraid meaning you’ll have to subscribe to Rovers Player if you want to know exactly whats going on… well I say exactly. For regular updates back in South Yorkshire you can tune into BBC Radio Sheffield, or if you’re on the internet try the  BBC’s online Live Text service which will tell you more than you could ever wish to know about throw-ins and other set-pieces. Alternatively of course there is BBC’s Score Interactive via the red button on television, but use it as your peril as the BBC have not yet found the technology to make Garth Crooks optional.

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