Can you feel a draft? You can can’t you. That’s because I’ve been busy throwing league form out the window in preparation for this fixture, which as we all well know is, at the end of the day, just eleven men against eleven. Yep its the annual media-patronisation-of-lower-league-football-clubs-athon that is FA Cup 3rd round day. As I type a BBC researcher will be looking in a file under ‘R’ for Radford and Garth Crooks will be off in a provincial town for Football Focus interviewing a local butcher about the window meat display in which he’s carefully and disturbingly crafted a variety of animal carcases into the message “Up the Boro!” Ah, who am I kidding? I love it really.
Of course for Doncastrians, just being in the 3rd round of the FA Cup is reason enough to be cheerful. For much of my Rovers supporting life I was happy to class a 1st round replay as a cup run. A decade ago I stood on a terrace made of railway sleepers at Southport watching Doncaster bow out in the 4th qualifying round, before returning home dejected. Well, I say home, it was actually a hole in the ground covered in a piece of tarpaulin, but it was a home to us…
Enough Yorkshire woe and back to the matter in hand. Rovers host Wolverhampton Wanderers in what is a very winnable FA Cup tie. Wolves may have impressed of late with victories over Liverpool and Chelsea, but it is unlikely to be the same Wanderers side which takes the field at the Keepmoat Stadium this Saturday. Mick McCarthy’s priorities lie with Premier League survival and whilst there may be arguments about this sort of approach cheapening the competition, it means for Doncaster the odds of reaching the 5th round for the first time in half a century are pleasingly reduced.
There is a significant link and media enticing sub-plot between Doncaster and Wolves off the field in the form of Rovers manager Sean O’Driscoll. Born in Wolverhampton, O’Driscoll is a lifelong Wanderers fan, and as his interview with Chris Mortley of the official club website reveals, he has welcomed the excuse to go and watch his team in the name of scouting. “I was delighted they got into the Premier League and delighted that Mick [McCarthy] kept them there, and I was at the Liverpool and Chelsea games where I was delighted they got six points. So I’d also be delighted if they go out of the Cup and can concentrate on the league.” And so says the whole of Doncaster.
Dennis Souza’s sending off at Sheffield United on Monday means that Rovers will yet again have to field a changed back four. Sam Hird would be most likely to return to take Souza’s place, having served his own one-game suspension after picking up two yellow-cards against Scunthorpe on New Years Day. Sean O’Driscoll may also have to make changes at left-back too should Southampton decide that they don’t wish for on-loan left back Joseph Mills to be cup-tied.
The good news is Rovers have two left-backs returning to the fold with James Chambers having made his first appearance for the club this season as a substitute at Bramall Lane on Monday. George Friend is also ready for a return to action, though fellow defenders Mustapha Dumbuya, Shelton Martis and Wayne Thomas all remain out injured. Also absent are midfield duo Brian Stock, expected to be out for another fortnight after Michael O’Connor’s off the ball stamp in the M180 derby, and Simon Gillett who, after making the bench on Monday, aggravated his recent knee injury in a training match and returns to the treatment room. Striker David Healy is also unavailable, his loan spell from Sunderland having come to an end.
The smart money would be on Mick McCarthy making a large number of changes to the Wolves team which defeated Chelsea in midweek. With Premier League survival a priority for the Molineux club McCarthy is likely to use this trip to Doncaster to rest some of his key players. However, it could also offer the perfect opportunity to give Kevin Doyle a return to the starting XI. Doyle featured against Chelsea after a month out with a groin tear and could well be given more on-field time at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Predicted Doncaster Rovers line-up
(4-3-2-1) Neil Sullivan; James O’Connor Sam Hird, Adam Lockwood, Joseph Mills; John Oster, Mark Wilson, Dean Shiels; Jamie Coppinger, James Hayter; Billy Sharp
subs: Gary Woods, Byron Webster, James Chambers, George Friend, Martin Woods, Waide Fairhurst, Steve Brooker
Travelling to the Game
Wolves have visited the Keepmoat Stadium before, travelling here for a league game in December 2008 and more recently Mickey Walker’s testimonial game. 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. Everything from how to get to the stadium on foot or by car to where to have a pint or pick your tickets up is detailed under the ‘Keepmoat Stadium’ tab at the top of the page.
Its said that you can never have too much of a good thing, and here at Viva Rovers we believe the same can be said of mediocre things too. And so for the third successive match we will be bringing you live updates via our Twitter feed. Throughout this 3rd round FA Cup match we’ll be providing updates not only one the match, but also Nick’s latest terrible impressions and Geoff’s latest whinges all in 140 characters or less. If you’re on Twitter make sure you’re following @vivarovers and the #drfc hashtag. 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 provided by the hardest working press office in show business, Chris Mortley on the club’s own Rovers Player service, though you will need to subscribe receive it. 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 formerly loved people at BBC Radio Sheffield. On the box the BBC’s Score Interactive service can be accessed via the red button, and cross your fingers that in sending Garth Crooks to Stevenage for an ‘amusing’ Football Focus piece the BBC have already used up his contracted hours.