No no, you’re not hallucinating, this really is a topical and up to date match preview from Viva Rovers. The observant amongst you will have noticed that we have not been the most prescient of Rovers related media in the past week or so, but then sadly this isn’t the day job. Nope, the day job involves working at a University and as the students returned last week I’ve been chained to my job more than a Delhi construction worker charged with building Commonwealth Games accommodation. Still, as Coventry represents the closest away league game to Viva Towers this season we’re making a break for freedom and are downing tools to plot a course for the Ricoh tonight. We really couldn’t be happier.
Its been as curious a month for Viva Rovers as it has the club to which we are dedicated. International travel, available funds and work commitments have conspired against me to ensure I have failed to attend Doncaster’s last five fixtures. Though I did manage to catch a non too legal internet stream of the Leeds match, I’ve watched more Conference North, Czech Gambrius League and Euro 2010 Qualifiers in the past month than I have Rovers matches. One on all counts. Indeed five successive non-attendances represents the most consecutive competitive Rovers games I’ve failed to attend in over a decade. Whats the opposite of a glory hunter?
Because whilst I was there for the lowest of the low in the Autumn and Winter of 1998 as we sat at the foot of the Conference, 114th in Football’s pyramid I have been absent for the opposite end of the spectrum as the win against Norwich a fortnight ago took Rovers up to 4th in the Championship, 24th in the country and our highest league position ever. Sadly a draw and a defeat since then have dropped Rovers to a feet firmly on the ground 10th, but the encouragement is all around. Rovers are in this position despite not really playing as well as we know they can and without star man Billy Sharp truly firing. And the only two league defeats have come to the two sides at the top of the table; leaders QPR and the at the time Bellamy fuelled hype steamroller that was Cardiff City in late August.
Of course the thing about the Championship, is that it is anyone’s division for the taking. String some wins together, stop letting in silly goals and you could be the next Blackpool, or the reincarnation of circa 2009 Burnley or 2008 vintage Hull City. Tonight’s opponents Coventry City are a side with the key ingredients needed to go on such a run. They have the division’s best goalkeeper in Keiron Westwood. They possess both ability and experience in midfield in the form of Gary McSheffrey and Lee Carsley. They have a mercurial and unpredictable attacking talent in Freddie Eastwood. They have a highly rated and talented young striker in Lukas Jutkiewicz, and they have now added to that mix with a proven goalscorer in Marlon King.
It’s not just the field of goalscoring in which their latest acquisition King has a proven record though. He also has a proven criminal record thanks to a string of offences as long as a hyper-extended Byron Webster elbow. In total King has convictions for fourteen offences stretching back thirteen years and has served time in prison for two of them. In 2002 he served five months of an eighteen month sentence for receiving stolen goods. And most recently, last year he was sentenced for 18 months in prison for sexual assault and assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and also placed on the sex offender register for seven years, after being arrested on suspicion of punching a twenty-year-old female in the face, breaking her nose. Footballers eh? We’re not ones to encourage hate campaigns here at Viva Rovers, so feel free to make your own moral judgement based on the above facts before you choose to hurl any abuse at King tonight.
Back to the game then and Rovers are yet to win at the Ricoh Arena having lost 1-0 on both previous visits, including last year’s very frustrating Boxing Day excursion. Mind having said that Rovers have only ever won in Coventry once, picking their way through the bomb damage to notch a 2-1 win in 1951. So if nowt else, we’re due one. Another gem lifted from the BBC for you; if Rovers win it will be their 400th all-time league away win so if you’re travelling to Coventry without your streamers and party-hats then shame on you.
Despite having featured as a substitute at QPR on Saturday it’s probably unlikely that James Hayter will return to the Rovers starting line-up just yet, though expect him to feature from the bench. We’ve a sneaking suspicion that Brian Stock could be brought back in tonight though admittedly we have bugger all to base that on. No-one reads this for proper thought out tactical insights do they?
Coventry City are expected to hand a full home debut to the former Wigan, Hull and HMP striker Marlon King after he made an impressive impact from the bench against Preston on Saturday. According to the BBC Gary McSheffrey who is smaller than you think, Danny Ward, David Bell and former Rovers Michael McIndoe “are all pushing for a place in the starting line-up”. I think I prefer pushing to vying to be honest.
Predicted Doncaster Rovers line-up
(4-2-2-1-1) Neil Sullivan; Mustapha Dumbuya, James O’Connor, Shelton Martis, George Friend; Brian Stock, John Oster; Simon Gillett, Martin Woods; Jamie Coppinger; Billy Sharp
subs: Gary Woods, Adam Lockwood, Sam Hird, Mark Wilson, Dean Shiels, Waide Fairhurst, James Hayter
Travelling to the Game
As modern out of town stadia go few can claim to be as modern or as out of town as Coventry City’s Ricoh Arena. Unhelpfully far from public transport links and featuring an inbuilt casino it’s all that’s wrong with modern football grounds in our view, but then we don’t drive.
If you do own one of those new fangled motor vehicles then the Ricoh is easier to find than it is to miss as its viewable from the M6. Leave the motorway at Junction 3 and take the A444 towards the city centre and you’ll pass the stadium after a mile. As an alternative to the official car parks at the ground which charge £5 there is parking just off the motorway. If you take the B4113 towards Longford instead from Junction 3 there are a couple of car-parks off the next roundabout. From here its a walk of about a mile along Wilson’s Lane and Rowley Green Lane to the stadium, and at this time of year you won’t encounter the road wide sheet of ice en route which felled me on Boxing Day last year.
For those travelling by train there are buses back to Coventry city centre after the game, but be wary that it can take a while for them to start moving after the match so you could be pushing it to make any train within an hour of the final whistle. The 101 runs from the city centre to the stadium every ten minutes and costs £3 for a return according to the ever excellent Football Ground Guide website. It leaves from just behind the Away end of the ground too.
If you’re after a beer close to the stadium then you could be struggling with most nearby pubs allowing in only home fans. The Black Horse Pub in between Longford and Exhall may be your best bet. Failing that the adjacent casino was happily serving fans of both sides on Boxing Day last season, and you can even have a quick go on a roulette wheel or a one arm bandit whilst you sup, you know, like how football was meant to be.
As we’re finally in a position to venture to a Rovers match then we can herald the return of Viva Rovers’ patented live match twitter coverage. We will be using our Twitter account and almost all that modern mobile phone technology has to offer to bring you live updates from the Ricoh Arena in bursts of 140 characters or fewer. To keep up with the action existing Twitter users should make sure they’re following @vivarovers or checking out the #drfc hashtag. If you don’t wish to join Twitter then you can access the same tweets here during the game though you will need to refresh the page fairly regularly.
Live commentary is, as ever, available for this game via the official club website’s Rovers Player service. You do have to subscribe and pay for the service, but the commentary from the hardest working press officer in show business, Chris Mortley, should be worth the expenditure. He was joined by Paul Mayfield on Saturday so innuendo fans should keep their fingers crossed that Paul is back in the summariser’s chair tonight. Radio wise expect updates from BBC Sheffield BBC West Midlands if you’re in either of those areas. Alternatively you’ll be able to keep up with all the match information online via the BBC website’s Live Text service.