There are teams in world sport whose reputation is greatly enhanced by the reputation of their supporters. The Green Bay Packers for example, or Toronto FC. Sadly, for Millwall and their genuine football loving fans, they are at the opposite end of that spectrum. A fresh menacing trait of Millwall support I discovered first hand this week is that they are lurking everywhere. On Monday night I mentioned to a lad I played five-a-side with that I was off to this game and he duly produced a Millwall membership card from his wallet. Likewise on Friday I mentioned this fixture to another Worcester based footballer and he too was a card-carrying fan of The ‘Wall. There’s probably one behind you right now.
The New Den is, as you will always be informed, an intimidating place to attend a football match. “Don’t wear colours” is the general rule of thumb for away fans, but should we really be daunted by this apparently monochrome ground south of the river? After all, the last time Rovers visited South Bermondsey they were treated to one of the finest performances from the red and white hoops in a decade of fine performances. The stats from that fixture are incredible, Rovers had 31 efforts on goal, and two of them came off in spectacular style. Jamie Coppinger’s dipping long-range strike surprisingly eclipsed by Paul Green’s late Van Basten-esque volley in a mesmerising 3-0 win.
Sadly, even the most fervent Doncastrian would have to admit that the chances of emulating that scintillating display are beyond the current Rovers side. Not only are Millwall a much stronger opposition than they were in 2008, but Rovers side is heavily depleted by injuries. Indeed the players sat in the stands in Doncaster tracksuits could give those likely to be out on the field a decent game. Hopefully the confidence gained from Tuesday’s victory over Burnley, will outweigh the nagging thoughts of the talent unavailable.
Millwall of course have reason to be confident coming into this fixture, as it is they who occupy the higher ground in the Championship table. Making an impressive fist of their return to the second tier Millwall briefly led the way at the start of the season, but have tailed away a little over the past months to occupy ninth place. That said they are currently enjoying a run of five consecutive home victories at The Den, and would be expecting to make that six against TheLikesOfDoncaster.
Millwall have the best first half record in the division, but like Rovers, have a habit of falling apart after the interval. As our ‘Half-time Championship’ table reflected the other week, if matches ended after 45 minutes this fixture would be a meeting of two of the division’s top three sides. Their performance at the Keepmoat earlier in the season reflects this notion with The Lions having surrendered a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1. Goalscorer for Millwall in that fixture was Steve Morrison who gave Rovers a torrid time all afternoon. The news that the Welsh international is injured for this game will have come as some relief to an injury-hit Donny defence.
Rovers injury list continues to give Sean O’Driscoll a selection headache, the only way it looks likely to start getting any shorter is if its written in a smaller font. Full-back Mustapha Dumbuya and four centre-backs, yes count them, four, remain sidelined; Adam Lockwood, Matt Kilgallon, Shelton Martis and Wayne Thomas. Also out of contention are central midfielders Simon Gillett, Martin Woods and Mark Wilson and now forward James Hayter who injured an achilles on Tuesday night.
And if that wasn’t bad enough goalkeeper Neil Sullivan remains a doubt having sat out Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Burnley and now the official website suggests that Jamie Coppinger is also struggling with a knock. So with an impressive potential XI sat in the stands O’Driscoll is likely to stick with the same side which began against Burnley, albeit with Dean Shiels or Steve Brooker in for Hayter and a hope that Coppinger is actually ok.
Millwall are expected to be without four players for this game after striker Steve Morrison joined Tony Craig and Darren Ward in the treatment room after picking up an injury at Norwich on Tuesday night. The suspended Jens Berthel Askou is the other absentee. New signing, the impressive, Hameur Bouazza however could be in line for a start for The Lions, whilst Paul Robinson may feature having resumed training after a recent hamstring injury.
Predicted Doncaster Rovers line-up
(4-3-2-1) Gary Woods; James Chambers, James O’Connor, Sam Hird, George Friend; Brian Stock, Paul Keegan, John Oster; Dean Shiels, Jamie Coppinger; Billy Sharp
subs: Neil Sullivan, Dennis Souza, Byron Webster, Waide Fairhurst, Ryan Burge, Steve Brooker
Travelling to the Game
For those of you driving to The New Den, the excellent Football Ground Guide website recommends heading towards junction 2 of the M25 and taking the A2 in towards central London. It might not be the shortest route, but it is the most straightforward. The A2 actually goes straight past the stadium, about a mile after New Cross Gate station, but this part of the road does split so you’re advised to keep right following the signs labelled ‘A2 City/Westminster’. Parking can be found on the streets and estates around the ground.
If you’re travelling by train then the first piece of advice would be to avoid openly wearing Rovers colours, just to be on the safe side. You’ll need to work your way to London Bridge station and then catch an overground service to South Bermondsey station. At South Bermondsey a protected walkway for visiting fans takes you straight to the away end, so you’d be wise to head down this.
Rejoice people, rejoice as Viva Rovers much heralded in-game live twitter feed returns for this match. Yep we’re heading to London and will be tweeting live and detailed updates from the match for as long as phone signal and battery permits. To keep up with the action follow @vivarovers on Twitter. If you’re not a Twitter user you can still keep up with our 140 character or less match feedback by refreshing the page 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 show-business. Match updates will also come via BBC local radio if you’re in South Yorkshire or the capital.
If you’re by a computer and for some reason not glued to our twitter feed then the BBC’s ‘Live Text’ match update service is as good a way of keeping up with whats going on as any. ANd if you’re in front of the telly or working in Dixons for the afternoon the BBC Score Interactive service accessed via the red button will be the best source of television updates. However, beware the lurking long-winded and often ultimately rhetorical time-bomb that is Garth Crooks. At some point he will say something that makes you want to hurl attack the television with the nearest thing to hand, but there is no way of quite knowing when that will be.