Viva Towers relocated to the West Midlands last summer, and so on Monday the last train of my return journey from Blackpool coincided with that of a group of West Bromwich Albion supporters making the trip back from Watford. The Baggies fans were in discussion on the merits of their club’s strikers when the youngest, drunkest and most annoying of their group piped up with “I love Cox me… no I’m telling you I’m a big fan of Cox,” at which point the rest of the carriage shot each other respective ‘who’d have thought?’ looks of astonishment and those nearby (well, me) giggled for about five minutes.
West Bromwich Albion will be hoping they don’t make any embarrassing faux pas of their own in the season’s run in. Chris Brunt’s late equaliser at Vicarage Road on Easter Monday coupled with Nottingham Forest’s draw with Cardiff City means that Albion are now effectively just a point away from a swift return to the Premier League. In anticipation of this point being secured at the Keepmoat Stadium on Saturday its safe to say that more than the official 3,000 Baggies will be in attendance to cheer on their side.
Under the tutorship of Roberto Di Matteo West Brom have been impressive throughout this season and come for their first taste of the Keepmoat Stadium unbeaten in seven fixtures. Albion have been a hard side to break down wherever they have played this campaign and baring in mind their impressive home form its interesting to see that they have actually been beaten fewer times on the road than they have at The Hawthorns. When the two sides met in September Rovers did well to just about hold their own against what even then was clearly a strong Championship side. Waide Fairhurst on his full debut had given Rovers an early lead, causing one fan at least to wave a toddler around in delight. Though the Albion hit back Rovers had a great chance to level late in the second half as somehow Adam Lockwood failed to connect with a corner that seemingly travelled through his head and West Brom wrapped up a 3-1 win with a truly brilliant goal from Chris Wood.
In an article posted on the Rovers official club website earlier today Sean O’Driscoll was full of praise for the overall set-up at West Brom. “You have to give credit to the people behind the scenes at West Bromwich Albion. I am from the Midlands… I know a lot of people who support The Baggies, They get frustrated that they don’t spend 50 or 60 million to stay in the [Premier] league – but they will probably be the only Premier League club next season that will have no debt, with facilities to die for.”
In comparison the Birmingham Mail this week threw up another one of those irritating stories where the headline and the intro actually bear no correlation with the actual substance. “Carson Urges West Brom to be wary of Doncaster Threat” was the headline to Christopher Lepkowski’s article which began “Scott Carson believes Doncaster Rovers will be desperate to be Albion’s party-poopers when the two clubs meet this weekend.” However the quotes from Carson said nothing of the sort, with the keeper actually just making solid noises about making sure they get the points they need and being wary of Forest trying to catch them. Presumably “Carson Says West Brom Aren’t Up Yet” was less of an attention grabbing headline.
Though Rovers are effectively safe from the drop and highly unlikely to challenge for a play-off spot the team should not be without goals. A solid push for the final four matches can ensure that Rovers not only finish as Yorkshire’s highest rated club in the Football League for the first time ever, but also that they secure their highest league finish in over a century. Anything above 11th place would make that possible, and of course a top half finish in the second tier would enable us all to tick off another box on our ‘Never-thought-I-would-see-Rovers-do-that-in-my-lifetime’ Bingo Card.
In regard to the Rovers squad there’s not much to say here that you don’t already know. The club have injury problems… lots of them. At last count Sean O’Driscoll is without eight players currently out injured – Brian Stock, Billy Sharp, Steve Brooker (whoever he is), Martin Woods, Jason Shackell, Byron Webster, Mustapha Dumbaya and Waide Fairhurst – and a further two – John Spicer and Lewis Guy – out on loan. The word threadbare was invented for moments like these.
Paul Heffernan was recalled from his loan spell at Bristol Rovers on Monday just in time for the match at Blackpool and went straight into the starting line-up. Though Heffernana failed to find the score sheet he did fit the mould well and delivered an impressive enough performance to suggest he will start again in this fixture. With none of the dozen absentees unlikely to return and certainly not to the starting eleven its probably a safe bet that the side which started at Bloomfield Road will start again at the Keepmoat Stadium.
West Brom team news to come…
Predicted Doncaster Rovers line-up
(4-3-2-1) Neil Sullivan; James Chambers, James O’Connor, Shelton Martis, Gareth Roberts; Mark Wilson, John Oster; Jamie Coppinger, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, James Hayter; Paul Heffernan
subs: Ben Smith, Adam Lockwood, Sam Hird, Sean McDaid, Jordan Mutch, Martin Woods, Dean Shiels,
Travelling to the Game
West Bromwich have taken the full allocation of away seats for this game and the chances are you can expect to find a number in the home end too, all of which will be making their first visit to the Keepmoat Stadium. Those Albion fans who are heading up to South Yorkshire, will find very little of help to them in regard to the Stadium on the official club website, but thankfully we’re more informative here at Viva Rovers. All the visiting West Brom fans need to know can be found via the ‘Keepmoat Stadium’ tab at the top of this page. On that page you’ll find directions to the ground for those travelling by car, or by public transport as well as suggested local pubs and details of where to pick up tickets.
For the third match in a row and the twenty-fourth time this season Viva Rovers will be covering the match live via our much celebrated in-game twitter feed. Throughout Saturday afternoon we’ll be bringing you all the crucial details including what Geoff is moaning about and what foolish things the guy on the PA has said all in bursts of 140 characters or less. To enjoy these despatches simply follow @vivarovers on Twitter and look out for the #drfc hashtag or alternatively keep an eye on the ‘Twitter Updates’ box on the right hand edge of this page.
Live commentary is available for this game on BBC Radio in the West Bromwich and Smethwick area, but we suspect that won’t be much help for any of you. If you’re anywhere else in the country then you will need to invest in the official club website’s Rovers Player. Sadly we’re told that Paul Mayfield won’t be commentating on this one as he’s handing over the reigns to someone from the Free Press for this fixture… well they’ve nowt to do for six days a week.
If you begrudge paying out to know what’s going on then you may want to try the ‘live text’ service via the BBC website. It won’t be very descriptive, but it will tell you all more about throw-ins and offside free-kicks than you could have ever cared to know. There is also BBC’s Score Interactive service on television via the red button, by this point in the season you should have mastered the art of muting just as Garth Crooks goes to speak as well.