Crystal Palace. There are no crystals there and it is certainly no palace. Oddly when I was on the phone on Friday morning purchasing my ticket for this game the girl on the other end kept referring to what I was purchasing as my “ticket for Crystal”, which means one of two things. Either she’s not that familiar with the abreviations of football team names, or I rang the wrong number and have actually shelled out to see Billy Crystal. There have been times following the Rovers where I would have hoped for the latter; this season that certainly isn’t the case. I want to be at as many games as possible, because it may never be this good again.
Seventh in the second tier, unbeaten in four games and scoring more regularly than any other side in the division, having now hit the net in ten consecutive games. It’s perhaps that latter aspect that is key to Rovers’ upwards push this season. The ability to move the ball well has been integral to Rovers play since coming into this division, but tying it together with a genuine goal-threat has taken more time. Two years ago, in Rovers opening Championship season the club reached this weekend having scored just eight league goals. This season they’ve already notched 30.
It’s in the goalscoring department that Sean O’Driscoll perhaps faces his toughest decision coming into this game. James Hayter has scored in each of the last five games, having been partnered in the last four of those by the constant threat of David Healy. But now Billy Sharp, last season’s top scorer is back in the fold, having recovered from injury enough to feature in a behind-closed-doors friendly with Chesterfield in midweek. So, does he play a forward enjoying his best strike-rate in three years, an international record-breaking goalscorer, or a £1million forward? Life can be tough sometimes.
Confidence is high amongst the Rovers squad at the moment, but that doesn’t mean this game should be taken lightly. Crystal Palace may be second bottom at the moment, but points-wise the South London side are nearer to Rovers than league leaders Queens Park Rangers. The Eagles have been on a reasoned run of late, back to back home wins over Watford and Coventry were followed by a cruel and unfortunate defeat at Bramall Lane last week.
Should Rovers lose then they will tumble down the congested table causing folk to add despair-laden posts to messageboards on Saturday night. However, in a division where momentum is everything the key for Rovers in a game such as this is to maintain the runs that are installing the squad’s confidence. Score a goal, remain unbeaten and this game will have been a success regardless of the result.
Sean O’Driscoll still has four long-term absentees to contend with in his team selection. The trio of Simon Gillet, James Chambers, and George Friend are all out with knee injuries, whilst Martin Woods continues to be troubled by his groin, as he has been ever since that infamous video. In addition Joseph Mills, who extended his loan stay earlier this week, is also unavailable owing to an ankle injury. The good news is that Shelton Martis is fit again after missing last week’s match with Swansea whilst Billy Sharp is fit for selection again having come through a friendly fixture with Chesterfield in the week.
Crystal Palace’s main absentee is club captain Paddy McCarthy who is ruled out with a groin injury. Owen Garvan is also unavailable due to suspension, whilst the BBC suggests that Anthony Gardner is doubtful owing to a back injury. The one ray of hope though is the possible return of Darren Ambrose who has recovered from a hamstring strain.
Predicted Doncaster Rovers line-up
(4-1-2-2-1) Neil Sullivan; James O’Connor, Shelton Martis, Wayne Thomas, Mustapha Dumbuya; Sam Hird; John Oster, Brian Stock; Jamie Coppinger, James Hayter; David Healy
subs: Gary Woods, Adam Lockwood, Dennis Souza, Mark Wilson, Dean Shiels, Billy Sharp, Steve Brooker
Travelling to the Game
Those of you making the long trip south by car are advised to take the M11 into London before joining the North Circular A406 (S) and then the A12 towards and through the Blackwall Tunnel. After the tunnel take the A2203 to Greenwich onto the A206. At the traffic signals bear left onto the A2211 signposted Lewisham and Dover which becomes the A21. Then its the A205 Catford Gyratory followed by the A212 signposted Sydenham. Then its the A213 signposted Croydon and Anerly and you’ve probably either stopped listening or started caring by now which is a shame because you’re about there.
If, like me. you’re heading to the game by train then you want to be aiming for either Selhurst or Norwood Junction, from either of which its a 10-15 minute walk to the ground. From Selhurst station turn left up Selhurst Road and then turn left along Holmesdale Road to the ground. From Norwood Junction head up Station Road and turn left onto Selhurst Road, then take the third right onto Park Road to the stadium.
The South. An unchartered land existing somewhere beyond Harworth pit, rife with confusing accents, the wrong type of rugby and affluence. It’s a daunting prospect so some of you will be understandably staying at home for this game. If you are remaining sensibly North fear not, we’re braving the dangers of the capital to see this fixture and will be reporting live throughout via our Twitter feed. Reception at Selhurst Park permitting we’ll be tweeting live from the match bringing you updates in 140 characters or less. If you’re a twitter user follow @vivarovers and look out for the #drfc hashtag. Even if you aren’t a ‘tweeter’ you can follow the match progress with us at twitter.com/vivarovers
Live commentary of the game is as ever available (for a fee) through the official club website’s Rovers Player service with commentary from Chris Mortley. Alternatively you can also follow the regular updates from the BBC’s Live Text service where detail outweighs description with a ratio of about 19:1. 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 service. Insert token joke about the annoyance of Garth Crooks here.