At present Rovers’ trip to Portsmouth in November represents my favourite match of the current season. A pulsating game at a traditional football ground. A decent atmosphere. A hard-fought and surprising 3-2 win. Mustapha Dumbuya wiping out Michael Brown. And no sign of that pillock with the bell. What more could you possibly want? And now Portsmouth are coming north to play us again. “Play Up Pompey” as Frankie Howard used to say.
Such has been the difference of fortunes between the two clubs in recent years that November’s win on the South Coast came in Rovers’ first fixture at Fratton Park in my lifetime. Whilst Rovers were plotting a route up to the second tier from non-league Portsmouth (as their bank balance will testify) were rubbing shoulders with the country’s elite in the Premier League. They even reached two FA Cup finals the flash southern gets.
But alas it appears you have to speculate to accumulate Cup Final appearances, and the end of Portsmouth’s top flight sojourn was played out as much in the High Court as it was on the field. Administration, brought inevitable relegation and now a much depleted Pompey side compared to that which ended last season finds itself fighting relegation once more. Having been as many as four divisions higher than Rovers within the last seven years, they come to the Keepmoat this weekend five points and five places worse off.
If you’re concerned about Rovers form coming into this match then you can at least take some solace in the fact that Pompey’s current run is even worse. Doncaster’s victory over Burnley may be their only win in six games, but Portsmouth arrive at the Keepmoat on the back of a ten match winless run. If Rovers can live up to the form guide and replicate their performance at Fratton Park then this could be the first time that Doncaster have ever done a league double over the South Coast club.
The epitome of travelling light Rovers were without twelve first-team players when they set-off to London last weekend. Thankfully that figure has lessened somewhat ahead of this game with at least two players strongly tipped to return to the starting line-up. Goalkeeper Neil Sullivan and midfielder Jamie Coppinger are expected to return from shin and ankle injuries respectively. Joseph Mills, back for a second loan spell from Southampton, could also feature in the squad after recovering from injury, but would be unlikely to replace the in form George Friend.
Mark Wilson and Matt Kilgallon have both returned to training in the latter half of the week though this fixture is likely to come too soon for the pair. The currently not feeling so magnificent seven of Mustapha Dumbuya, Shelton Martis, Adam Lockwood, Wayne Thomas, Simon Gillett, Martin Woods, and James Hayter all remained sidelined.
Portsmouth will be out the significant presence of captain Aaron Mokoena who has been stranded in South Africa following an international match with Kenya in midweek. According to the BBC Mokoena’s work-permit has expired and he has to wait ’til Monday to be issued with a new one in order to return to the UK.
Predicted Doncaster Rovers line-up
(4-3-2-1) Neil Sullivan; James Chambers, James O’Connor, Sam Hird, George Friend; John Oster, Brian Stock, Ryan Mason; Jamie Coppinger, Steve Brooker; Billy Sharp
subs: Gary Woods, Joseph Mills, Dennis Souza, Byron Webster, Paul Keegan, Ryan Burge, Dean Shiels
Travelling to the Game
This match represents Portsmouth’s first visit to the Keepmoat Stadium so look out for confused southerners in blue wandering round the town centre on Saturday afternoon. Those Pompey fans who are travelling to the Keepmoat Stadium for this game 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. If you’re bringing a giant bell to the game don’t bother checking the directions, just head out towards Thorne and Moorends, that’s where the ground is… honest.
If you can’t get to the Keepmoat this weekend then fear not as Viva Rovers much heralded in-game live twitter feed is in action once again for this match. We will as ever be tweeting live and detailed updates from the match for as long as phone signal and battery permits. To keep up with the action and what Geoff is whinging about 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.
If its proper live commentary you’re after then look no further than Chris Mortley, the hardest working press office in show-business, who will be providing this via the club’s own Rovers Player service, though you will need to subscribe receive it. If you’re in South Yorkshire or on the South Coast expect updates on the match via BBC local radio. Alternatively online there are regular updates via BBC website’s Live Text service, though sadly for throw-in fans they no longer notify you each and every time the ball goes out of play. Lastly you’ll also find updates via the BBC’s Final Score programme accessed via the red button. If you watch it on mute and push a pot plant in front of the left third of the screen you can enjoy it Garth Crooks free too.