I know what you’re thinking, after a headline like that this match preview can only really go downhill. And you’d be right. For the second time in ten days Rovers face Wolves in an FA Cup fixture, a match which can only mean one thing. Yes, another day spent with Duran Duran’s Hungry Like a Wolf stuck in my head, and then a mad dash out of work to get to Molineux for a match which is sure to be nothing if not under-attended.
Having said that of course its worth noting that Wolverhampton Wanderers brought a pleasing number of supporters across to South Yorkshire for the initial fixture last Saturday. On that afternoon it would seem that what Cup apathy there is amongst fans had plonked itself firmly in the home end. Personally I can’t understand it, for as long as I’ve supported Rovers the FA Cup had always guaranteed to get a few more bums on seats, and additional feet on the terrace. I’ve seen Doncaster in the second tier of the Football League and I’ve seen them within a minute of a League Cup semi-final, I’ve seen them play at Wembley and at the Millennium Stadium, but I have never seen them play a fifth round FA Cup tie and so for that reason I will continue to go weak at the knees for the FA Cup. The only thing it’ll distract me from is the previous night’s sleep.
Of course one of the reason for Rovers failure to reach the fifth round of this competition for half a century is an inability to defeat teams of a higher division. Since the 1-0 victory over then top-flight QPR at Belle Vue twenty-six years ago Rovers have only once knocked a team from a division out of this competition. Rochdale and Wigan have been brushed aside in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, Grimsby, Ipswich, Aston Villa and Manchester City in the League Cup, but only Southend United have been toppled in the FA Cup. And that victory came at the least likely of times as Dave Penney’s twelfth minute strike gave Rovers, propping up the Conference table only their third win of the season and led to Ian Snodin being carried shoulder-high from the Roots Hall pitch.
Of course now, twelve seasons on, things are very different and Rovers travel to Premier League Wolves having given them as good as they got in the initial tie. Rovers controlled the first half at the Keepmoat and Wanderers bossed the second, but having regained the initiative following George Elokobi’s sending-off ten minutes from time Doncaster can feel a little more downbeat than their hosts at having to do it all again. Manager Mick McCarthy showed in his team selection at the Keepmoat that he takes the competition more seriously than many of his Premier League peers and Wolves have a habit of scraping through Cup ties with lower division sides at Molineux so tonight looks set to bring a tight fixture. With Cardiff or Stoke at home awaiting the victors in the next round, that illusive fifth round milestone is certainly in sight if Rovers can prove themselves hungrier than the Wolves.
Following on from his first-hand experience of Rovers play against Reading on Saturday, Matt Kilgallon will get a first opportunity to watch his new team-mates at Molineux tonight. The defender is ineligible for this fixture having been signed after the initial 3rd round match. It’s a frustrating loss for O’Driscoll as he is without four further defenders; centre-backs Shelton Martis and Wayne Thomas and right-back Mustapha Dumbuya remain in the treatment room where they have been joined by Joseph Mills who lasted only half an hour of Saturday’s home game.
The Rovers midfield is also light of options with both Brian Stock and Simon Gillett both still unavailable. As such Martin Woods, who returned to the side from the bench against Reading, could be in line for a first start since the end of October.
Mick McCarthy has additional options at his disposal for this game with both midfielder Karl Henry and defender Jody Craddock returning from injury. However Wolves will be without the two players who departed early during the initial fixture; David Edwards who sidled off with a hip injury, and George Elikobi, suspended after being sent-off at the Keepmoat, meaning the only impression he’ll be making on this fixture is the one he left in the spine of Jamie Coppinger.
Predicted Doncaster Rovers line-up
(4-3-2-1) Neil Sullivan; James O’Connor, Sam Hird, Adam Lockwood, James Chambers; John Oster, Mark Wilson, Martin Woods; Jamie Coppinger, James Hayter; Billy Sharp
subs: Gary Woods, George Friend, Denns Souza, Byron Webster, Dean Shiels, Waide Fairhurst, Steve Brooker
Travelling to the Game
Wolves’ ground is a rarity in modern football in that it’s actually close to the city centre. If you’re driving there leave the M6 at Junction 10 and take the A545 into Wolverhampton. One of the best bets, particularly for an evening game such as this is to follow signs for the city centre and park in a central car-park there, checking of course that it is open late enough. Both the Broad Street and Fryer Street car-parks are within ten minutes walk of the ground.
If you’re planning to travel to the game by train then first of all remember to account for possible extra-time and penalties in your return journey plans. Trust me, I speak from experience of frantic phone calls to locate a sofa to crash on in Nottingham. From Wolverhampton station head straight on, crossing the bridge over the fly-over. Once on the other side, keep the ring road on your right and the ground will eventually come into view.
If you can’t make it to the Black Country fear not as for an unprecedented fifth game in a row Viva Rovers will be tweeting live match updates. Yep, phone signal and battery permitting we will be reporting from Molineux 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. And 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 should also be covering this match live if you’re based in South Yorkshire, though as its midweek you’re spared Garth Crooks incredulity on the BBC Score Interactive service as that’s not screened midweek. Garth presumably spends his evenings on the sofa asking his wife really long-winded and ultimately rhetorical questions about her day.