I’m not going to this game. As opening sentences of match previews go I realise this isn’t exactly a killer hook, but it is at least the truth. Reading, at least the town of Reading, is amongst the most accessible of away games for me, one of only two where I need catch just one train. Yet, I have decided not to go. Not because of the game, and certainly not because of the Rovers, but because the Madejski Stadium.
Last year the Madejski Stadium offered the most enjoyment-free experience of any ground I visited, and to scoop that honour ahead of the Ricoh Arena is some achievement. Corporate and controlled and bloody miles from anything useful. Unnecessary and over-zealous stewarding at the away end, despite there not being a luminous jacket in sight on the home turnstiles. It was all that I dislike about watching Rovers at this level and I’d paid through the nose to be treated that ay too. Well not this season. As much as I enjoy watching Rovers play football, I have decided to put my money to better use. So, I’ve taken the money I would have used to gain entry to the Fosters Lager South Stand and instead given it to the Worcester City Supporters’ Trust, a much more deserving cause, and staffed by much friendlier folk too.
Enough of my personal issues though and on with the show. Did you know that Rovers haven’t achieved back to back wins since March? Nope, neither did I, thanks rogue statistics at the bottom of the BBC’s match previews. As surprising as that stat is, it does go someway to outlining the difference between the movers and the mid-table dwellers in this division. As we discovered in each of our first two Championship seasons, a little bit of momentum in this division goes along way. If Rovers can start turning the follow-up draws into wins they’ll go upwards pretty quickly.
The task of turning one point into three is not going to be easy for Rovers without their most potent weapon. Billy Sharp was just starting to hit form, and had already struck against his old club on Saturday before tearing a hamstring. With the injury cursed Steve Brooker the only other out-and-out forward at the club, getting goals subsequently looks a lot harder for a team who had been doing a pretty good job of finding the net thus far.
One of the most notable quirks of this fixture will see a battle of two brothers as Rovers on-loan left-back Joseph Mills comes up against ex-Rover and Reading centre-half Matt Mills. After a shaky introduction against Derby, Mills the younger looked much more composed against Sheffield United and played a key part in Rovers second goal. The chance to show his ability on the ame field as his brother will hopefully bring even more out of the full-back on what is also his twenty-first birthday.
I was going to segway that last paragraph into a piece about how Rovers, having failed to win at Reading since 1984 haven’t had ‘many happy returns’ from Berkshire, but not even I can stoop to that. So I won’t.Instead I’ll just end with a nominal mention of our opponents. Reading are a side which appears to be starting to click so this could be a testing fixture for Rovers. Look out for forward Simon Church, who has impressed me greatly for Wales this year and is a forward I think would really suit Rovers system of football. How potent that makes him for Reading I’m not sure, but his is an enjoyable talent.
Enjoy the game if you’re going. And take lots of pictures. They love that.
The high that came from a comfortable 2-0 lead over Sheffield United last weekend was soon diminished with the sight of Billy Sharp limping from the Keepmoat Stadium pitch with a torn hamstring. Unsurprisingly the striker is out of this game meaning a selection dilemma for Sean O’Driscoll who must decide whether to thrust Steve Brooker into first team action or nudge James Hayter further forward in his starting XI.
Sharp isn’t the only key absentee either with Rovers still without George Friend and Simon Gillett and likely to be less one Martin Woods with the midfielder highly doubtful to feature in this one. The official club website suggests that James Chambers and Wayne Thomas could return, but its highly unlikely they’d go straight into Sean O’Driscoll’s plans. Chambers could make the bench though in light of just how few fit midfielders are available and his past experience in that position.
Reading have their own absentees to contend with, most notably in defence where they’ll be without Brynjar Gunnarsson and Julian Kelly. However, they have boosts further up the field with Jimmy Kebe fit again after missing last week’s win at Burnley with a knee injury. Jem Karacan who picked up a knock during that match at Turf Moor is also expected to be passed fit.
Predicted Doncaster Rovers line-up
(4-3-2-1) Neil Sullivan; Mustapha Dumbuya, James O’Connor, Shelton Martis, Joseph Mills; John Oster, Mark Wilson, Brian Stock; Jamie Coppinger, Dean Shiels; James Hayter
subs: Gary Woods, Sam Hird, Adam Lockwood, Martin Woods, Steve Brooker, Waide Fairhurst, James Chambers
Travelling to the Game
Easily accessible if you drive, terrible to get to if you don’t. For Reading, read the Ricoh. Right by the motorway, but miles from the town centre, it’s just another reason why non-drivers like me hate modern out of town stadia. Last year I decided to fly in the face of progress and walk from the station to the ground… as scenic a river side route as I chose, it still took the best part of an hour in each direction so I wouldn’t recommend doing the same.
Instead, if you are arriving by train follow the advice of the excellent Football Ground Guide website and catch the No.79 Football Special bus to the Stadium for £3.50 a return ticket. The buses begin departing from 1:00pm, just turn right as you come out of the station and you’ll find them 200 yards along that road. The advice is to catch the bus to the ground no later than 2:00pm as they can get stuck in traffic. If you’re driving you need to leave the M4 at Junction 11 and from there you’ll have done well to miss it.
Also be prepared for over-zealous stewarding and security on the away fans gate. Last season I was made to do a whole lap of the stadium to leave my camera in the club reception and was searched three times before finally getting into the ground. We really are much friendlier up north.
No patented live match twitter coverage fromViva Rovers’ this week I’m afraid folks as we’ll be on a train east for the duration of the match. Instead expect idle speculation and halloween-pun based nonsense should you choose to follow @vivarovers on Saturday afternoon. Those of you not putting your Saturday afternoon in the hands of East Midlands Trains will be able to access live commentary only through the Rovers Player service available via the official club website. It costs a bit of money, but Chris Mortley is worth it. If neither of those options suit you there will be updates on the airwaves from BBC Radio Sheffield or updates on television from the Beeb’s Score Interactive feature. Garth Crooks still inhabits this medium though, happily vocalising what no-one is thinking all the time relentlessly oblivious to his own insignificance.