Football. Lovely football. After a disappointingly fixture-less festive period Rovers are finally back in action. And there can be no better way to see in a New Year than an angry local derby against your fiercest rivals. Yes, that’s right, I said fiercest. Forget Leeds, forget Sheffield United, forget Barnsley and forget Hull. No matter what has occurred in the past seven years, Scunthorpe remain our most significant natural enemies in this division and don’t you forget it. Chim chiminee, chim chiminee, chim chim cheroo and all that.
So after faulty electrics at Pride Park and a deep frost at the Keepmoat Stadium what should have been Rovers third game of four in ten days becomes the club’s first match in a fortnight. As irritating as its been for supporters the break has in all honestly probably benefitted the team. The extensive defensive injury list remains long for Sean O’Driscoll, but it is showing signs of shortening and those that are fit have been handed a welcome rest.
It’s not just the weary limbs of Rovers players that have benefitted from the unscheduled mid-Winter break either. Doncaster’s league position seems to have been oddly strengthened during the period of inactivity. Rovers now sit 14th in the Championship, four points off the play-off positions with one, two and in some cases three games in hand on all but one of the teams above them. Should Doncaster defeat Scunthorpe today that position is sure to look even healthier.
Scunthorpe travel along the M180 with one of the Championship’s more peculiar playing records in tow. The Iron sit in the bottom three but have won more away games than any other team in the division, with only Cardiff City matching Scunthorpe’s record of six victories on the road so far this season. United’s latest away win, a 2-0 triumph at Burnley not only lifted them above fellow strugglers Crystal Palace but also spelt the end for ex-manager Brian Laws who was sacked from Turf Moor the following day.
Though James Chambers, Simon Gillett, and Martin Woods are now back in training it is unlikely that any of the three will feature in the squad for this fixture. Fellow long-term absentees Mustapha Dumbuya and George Friend are also absent for the time being. Like Chambers and co James O’Connor has also returned to training this week and could be fast-tracked into the depleted Rovers back-four.
Assuming O’Connor is not fit expect Shelton Martis to hang on to the right-back slot with Sam Hird and Wayne Thomas most likely to feature in the centre of defence and Joseph Mill back in the side at left-back. O’Driscoll will most likely start with Billy Sharp up front, but with another derby game to come 48 hours later expect his substitute opportunities to be fully utilised, which could mean a rare cameo from Steve Brooker.
According to the BBC Scunthorpe United make the short journey to South Yorkshire without Michael Raynes, Niall Canavan, and Jim McNulty; the trio sidelined by thigh, knee and ankle injuries respectively. They represent the only absentees from the United squad though so Ian Baraclough is expected to name the same side that saw off Brian Laws at Burnley earlier in the week.
Predicted Doncaster Rovers line-up
(4-3-2-1) Neil Sullivan; Shelton Martis, Sam Hird, Wayne Thomas, Joseph Mills; John Oster, Brian Stock, Mark Wilson; Jamie Coppinger, James Hayter; Billy Sharp
subs: Gary Woods, Byron Webster, Adam Lockwood, Waide Fairhurst, Dean Shiels, David Healy, Steve Brooker
Travelling to the Game
Scunthorpe United will be familiar with the Keepmoat Stadium having cast jealous glances at it from within their own tin shed. Those who are travelling to the Keepmoat Stadium for the first time however, can find all they need to know about the ground in our very own guide. You’ll find all this info, perhaps unsurprisingly under the ‘Keepmoat Stadium’ tab at the top of the page. There’s no undersoil heating, but for once that shouldn’t be an issue.
It’s always good to start the New Year off with good news so you’ll be delighted to hear that Viva Rovers will be back on live Twitter duty for this New Years’ derby match. We’ll be tweeting updates live from the Keepmoat Stadium in 140 characters or less, so if you’re on Twitter make sure you’re following @vivarovers. If you’re not a Twitter user you can still access the same match feed by going to twitter.com/vivarovers and refreshing the page during the game.
Live match commentary is available from the club’s own Rovers Player service, though you will need to subscribe to get the full enjoyment of Chris Mortley’s commentary. Alternatively there is the BBC Live Text coverage on the internet which will keep you very informed on whose taking throw-ins and a bit about the general game too. If you’re not near a computer or a fancy mobile phone then you will be able to get regular updates and possibly even commentary courtesy of the lovely people at BBC Radio Sheffield. On the box the BBC’s Score Interactive service can be accessed via the red button, fingers crossed that Garth Crooks celebrated the New Year heavily.