I was out in Worcester back in May when asked by one of the group I was with who I supported. My reply brought the usual looks of surprise and confusion from the rest of the group with the exception of one lad who replied “Oh not them, you always beat my lot. Always”. The poor lad in question was a Derby County fan, and one FA Cup aside he’s pretty much got it spot on.
The FA Cup fourth round win for Derby over Rovers at Pride Park in January was very much the anomaly in recent fixtures between the two sides, with the other five of the last six matches all won by Rovers. Four league victories since we first met in this tier on the opening day of the 2008-09 season and a penalty shoot-out League Cup win in Belle Vue’s final months have all conspired to give Rams fans a touch of dread when faced with the two words Doncaster Rovers. Not since May 1986 and a 1-1 Third Division draw at the Baseball Ground have County taken points off Rovers. Even on a five match unbeaten run, omen wise, you have to say it doesn’t look great for them.
Despite Rovers control in recent league meetings whenever the two clubs have met in the last two seasons they have always been within touching distance of one another in the Championship table. And for this game that remains the case with Derby just a point and a place beneath Doncaster in the table. Though 12th and 13th respectively such is the way of the Championship a win for either side would catapult them back into the play-off mix and briefly onto the radar of Manish, Steve and Leroy of a Saturday evening.
Each team comes into this game with love ’em or hate ’em figures at the forefront of their play. In the heart of the Derby midfield is the unmissable blond hair of Robbie Savage. Though often clouded by perceptions of his persona, his football ability does remain a threat as whilst on the field he is a significant asset, selfless and effective – the exact opposite of how he is as a pundit.
For Rovers the main man, is the one at the head of the field; Billy Sharp just loves scoring goals and the bad news for Derby is that he’s just got his eye in, with three goals in his last three games. Last season’s 2-0 win at Pride Park was notable for just how terrified the Rams back-line were of an in-form Sharp, and that’s exactly what they will come up against in this game. The chances are they will try to crowd Sharp out, but with midfielders John Oster and Jamie Coppinger on form and seemingly able to ping a pass to the feet of the forward wherever he moves Derby may be focussing on the wrong threat. At the moment the supply is just as deadly as the finish.
Rovers come into this game with something of a defensive injury crisis as George Friend picked up a knock at Glanford Park on Saturday to join fellow defenders Wayne Thomas, James Chambers and Shelton Martis in the treatment room. Add to that the fact that Adam Lockwood and James O’Connor are also carrying knocks and it seems Rovers only actually have three fully fit defenders at the club at the moment. Expect those three; Mustapha Dumbuya, Sam Hird and Byron Webster to start unless Sean O’Driscoll can make a successful trip into the loan market between now and kick-off. Another Elliott Ward style find and subsequent debut would be most welcome.
Derby County are expected to keep England squad member Frankie Fielding in goal after giving the keeper his debut against Preston on Saturday, so expect to hear the phrase “Oh, that’s who he plays for” quite a bit during the first half. Nigel Clough will also be hoping Paul Green is available to play against his former club, the midfielder having returned to training this week following a hamstring injury. Whether Gareth Roberts features though is up for debate with the full-back currently out of favour at Pride Park.
Predicted Doncaster Rovers line-up
(4-2-2-1-1) Neil Sullivan; Mustapha Dumbuya, Byron Webster, Sam Hird, James O’Connor; Martin Woods, John Oster; Simon Gillett; Jamie Coppinger, James Hayter; Billy Sharp
subs: Gary Woods, Mark Wilson, Brian Stock, Dean Shiels, Waide Fairhurst, Steve Brooker
Travelling to the Game
Most Derby County fans are probably familiar with the Keepmoat Stadium by now having visited in each of the last two seasons. However, for the uninitiated everything you could possibly want to know can be found in our very own guide to the Keepmoat Stadium. You’ll find all this info, from where to pick your tickets up, how to get there, and where you can grab a pre-match drink under the ‘Keepmoat Stadium’ tab at the top of the page because us Yorkshire-folk are matter of fact like that.
Further bad news for fans of our in-game Twitter coverage as for the second Rovers game running we will be unable to provide you with live 140 character updates. As ever though live commentary is 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.
BBC Radio Derbyshire are likely to be broadcasting live coverage if you’re in their catchment area, though that’s likely to be your only option for live radio coverage. Alternatively if you can access the internet you’ll be able to keep up with all the match information via the BBC Live Text service.