The Hornets. A good sensible proper nickname. So why on earth are Watford trying to rebrand themselves as The Golden Boys? And more pertinently, why are their fans allowing them to change to a name more befitting an all-male dance troupe? For that they deserve all that’s coming to them on Saturday, and this weekend they have even greater cause to be wary. That’s right Golden Boys. Be afraid. Because John Ryan is back amongst the fans, and this time he’s bringing his fellow directors with him.
Our leader has announced that he will walk among us once again this Saturday, to push the need for solidarity in the face of Rovers current injury crisis. In an article on the club website on Thursday John Ryan spoke of a need for a “blitz mentality” amongst the Doncaster support and urged fans to dig for victory, to keep mum as she’s not so bad, and to remember that careless talk costs lives. Just kidding. Ryan was of course calling for a united front amongst the Rovers support as manager Sean O’Driscoll does his best to secure results with an incredible 14 first team players unavailable to him.
It would be easy to dismiss this as a publicity stunt or a marketing gimmick from JR, primarily because to a degree it is. But, whilst other folk are simply flogging t-shirts with nods to 1980s solidarity movements, JR is at least putting is mouth where his money is. Ryan is of course a Rovers fan, and has done arguably more for this club than anyone else. It’s hard to think of any other club where the chairman could so safely join the fans and feel at home, or indeed play himself up front in the last game of the season without a barrage of criticism. You can dismiss it as a gimmick if you like, but it is an effective way of displaying three key things; a united front, his own support for this club, and his resolute backing of Sean O’Driscoll.
In the past week the mood amongst Rovers supporters, particularly on the messageboards, has shifted dramatically. Tuesday night’s point at Norwich was not only a surprise, but of significant importance. Achieved against the odds it showed a resilience amongst the current squad and the boost it has subsequently given players and supporters alike could make all the difference come the season’s culmination.
Rovers record since the turn of the year has wilted as the injury list has increased. A Doncaster player has not scored for Rovers in a month, with the victory over Burnley and the point at Norwich coming courtesy of opposition defenders with one eye on a cameo in a Danny Baker video. Donny were three points off the play-off places with two games in hand after victory on New Year’s Day, now they sit 18th and have been looking down rather than up in recent week’s.
The team occupying that final play-off place on January 1st were Watford, but since mid January the Hornets have been on a terrible run of their own. Without a win in eight games Malky Mackay’s side crashed out of the FA Cup to League One Brighton and have dropped to 12th in the Championship. The hope is that both sides will treat this fixture as a must win game rather than a must not lose fixture.
The encouraging news for Rovers fans is that Simon Gillett and Billy Sharp have returned to training this week, though unfortunately this game is likely to come too soon for either to return to the line-up. As such Rovers will still be without a dozen players; Mustapha Dumbuya, James Chambers, James O’Connor, Shelton Martis, Adam Lockwood, Martin Woods, Ryan Burge, Ryan Mason, Jamie Coppinger, Steve Brooker and James Hayter all injured, and Waide Fairhurst out on loan.
Watford will be sadly without the brilliantly named Lloyd Doyley who is sidelined with a hamstring injury. There is however, no news on his adversary Henry Occasional-Table. Michael Bryan is also likely to miss out with an ankle injury, however the good news for Malky Mackay is that winger Will Buckley could make his return.
Predicted Doncaster Rovers line-up
(4-3-2-1) Neil Sullivan; Sam Hird, Wayne Thomas, George Friend, Joseph Mills; Mark Wilson, Paul Keegan, Brian Stock; John Oster, Franck Moussa; Jason Euell
subs: Gary Woods, Dennis Souza, Byron Webster, Matt Kilgallon, Simon Gillett, Dean Shiels, Billy Sharp
Travelling to the Game
This match represents Watford’s third visit to the Keepmoat Stadium, so the chances are most Hornets’ fans heading north for this game will have been before. If however you are coming to DN4 for the first time you can find all you 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 can’t wait until 3pm Saturday to see a team in red and white hoops struggling to keep up with yellow shirted opponents then good news. Long running Rovers fans’ team the Donny R’sonists will be hosting the Barnsley Supporters’ FC in an IFA League match in the morning. If you want some fresh air of a Saturday morning, the match kicks off at 10:30am at the Ian Wilson Community Sports Village (Rossington Comprehensive).
Rejoice good people for comprehensive 140 character or less match coverage has returned. YepViva Rovers’ much heralded in-game twitter feed will be back in action for this fixture. If you’re on Twitter follow @vivarovers for our take on the game and the occasional whinge from Geoff too. If you’re not a Twitter user you can still keep up with our reporting 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 Hertfordshire (not London) 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. It’s a poorer service for it too. On the box the BBC’s Final score is accessible via the red button; see if you can find the special feature that enables you to replace Garth Crooks with a standing lamp.