It’s the Bullseye South Yorkshire derby as Rovers head to Bramall Lane to say sorry lads. So near and yet so far. Lets have a look at what you could have won as the away dugout slowly turns to reveal a shiny new Sean O’Driscoll standing with Richard O’Kelly and Lee Butler draped across him. Instead they’ll have to pretend that they’ve had a lovely day out and make do with the bendy Mickey Adams they’ve propped up in the home dugout. All that disappointment and not even a risqué Jim Bowen quip. What a miserable Christmas.
This game would have been keenly anticipated enough what with it being a Bank Holiday South Yorkshire derby. However, the Blades’ unsuccessful and downright ungracious pursuit of Sean O’Driscoll in the past fortnight has given it and added spice. And so more than two and a half thousand Doncastrians will head to the Steel City on Monday, not just to enjoy the football, nor simply in the hope of a win, but chiefly to gloat. Folk are suddenly casting enviable glances the way of the pub side from down the road, and we intend to revel in every minute of it.
With the wane of the county’s steel forges and coal mines O’Driscoll is now South Yorkshire’s most valuable commodity. The man who has helped Rovers pass their way to a solid second tier position had been coveted as the ideal man to breakaway from the hoofball approach instilled by Neil Warnock and carried on by Kevin Blackwell. League championships won in black and white and sepia, and a greater number of red plastic seats were thought to be enough to make O’Driscoll go weak at the knees, but he is more intelligent man than that. In the White Rose county Doncaster are the thinking man’s crumpet.
Rovers have the upper hand managerially and that has and will be born out over time, but whether they will come out on top in this single match is a tougher call. Sheffield United’s record against Rovers at Bramall Lane is overwhelmingly in their favour, but that is unlikely to play on the minds of the Doncaster squad given that the two Championship visits have brought them four points. Saturday’s 3-0 derby triumph over Scunthorpe United will send Rovers down the M18 confidently, but the Blades’ festive period has been far from fruitful.
Caretaker manager John Carver oversaw back to back defeats as Boxing Day’s 3-2 defeat at home to Hull City was followed up by a 4-2 loss at Norwich two days later. They are score-lines which hint at a lack of discipline and that’s before you even factor in the two red cards picked up at Carrow Road and the FA charges received for mass confrontations in both games. On New Years day came the bright new dawn of the Mickey Adams era, though sadly for United it brought much the same with a 4-2 loss at Burnley. Rumour has it 50% of Radio Sheffield’s phone lines have actually melted in the post-Christmas grievance-airing.
All the signs suggest that for Rovers there could be no better time to face Sheffield United, unfortunately the lack of defenders available to Sean O’Driscoll mean this could be as good a time as any for United to try to take points off Doncaster. As Bank holiday derbies go, this has all the makings of a classic
Songs to Sing
A new section to our match preview, but worth including for this beauty;
Oh Sean O’Driscoll’s magic, he wears a magic hat,
When the Blades came calling, he didn’t fancy that,
He doesn’t like their tactics, he thinks their club’s unsound,
So he’s staying at the Rovers, to play football on the ground.
Another day, another injury-based defensive selection conundrum for Sean O’Driscoll. Already without Mustapha Dumbuya, James Chambers, George Friend and Wayne Thomas, O’Driscoll will now have to factor in the unavailability of Sam Hird as he serves a one-game suspension for Saturday’s sending off. Shelton Martis is also doubtful after he limped out of the action after little more than quarter of an hour. If all of the above are unavailable then tomorrow could see a central back three of Adam Lockwood, Dennis Souza and Byron Webster employed. Rovers only non-defensive absentee is likely to be Martin Woods, though Brian Stock will be a doubt after being on the thin end of Michael O’Connor’s studs against Scunthorpe.
Sheffield United have a number of absentees of their own to contend with as the central defensive duo of Nyron Nosworthy and Chris Morgan which faced Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium in October are both out injured, though on the basis of that game, this may be a blessing. Andy Reid is suspended, whilst Richard Wright, Jean Calve, Matt Lowton and Leon Britton are all said to be doubtful.
Predicted Doncaster Rovers line-up
(5-2-2-1) Neil Sullivan; James O’Connor, Adam Lockwood, Dennis Souza, Byron Webster, Joseph Mills; John Oster, Brian Stock; Jamie Coppinger, James Hayter; Billy Sharp
subs: Gary Woods, Mark Wilson, Simon Gillett Dean Shiels, David Healy, Waide Fairhurst Steve Brooker
Travelling to the Game
Rovers had sold out their initial allocation for this game and were duly given a further 1,000 tickets to sell at Saturday’s game and beyond. Whatever tickets are left will be on sale at Bramall Lane, but there should still be around 2,500 of you heading to Sheffield tomorrow.
I’ll presume you’re all familiar with where the centre of Sheffield is, so will just stick to the directions from the city’s train station. They’re simple enough too. Come out of the station. Turn left. Walk in pretty much in a straight line, along Shoreham Street, until you see a big football ground. Away supporters are housed in the Bramall Lane Stand end of the ground.
typical, you wait ages for a Rovers game to be covered on Twitter by an amateurish football blog site and then two come along at once. Yep, phone signal and battery permitting we will be reporting live throughout this match via our Twitter feed. You’ll be able to follow proceedings in bursts of 140 characters or less by following @vivarovers and looking out for the #drfc hashtag if you’re a Twitter user. Even if you aren’t a ‘tweeter’ you can still 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, the hardest working press officer in showbuisness. BBC Radio Sheffield will also be covering this match live; hopefully they’ll remain more impartial in commentary than they are in managerial rumour-mongering. On the box BBC’s Score Interactive service via the red button could be your best bet for updates, and there’s a rumour going round that Garth Crooks doesn’t work Bank Holidays. Honest.