“All but safe,” has been the phrase of choice in Doncaster this week; the Rovers are “all but safe” from the drop. However, whilst most would be relaxing, safe in the knowledge that Sheffield United could not possibly affect a six point and nine goal swing in their favour, that is not the instilled Doncastrian pessimism on which I was raised. As far as I’m concerned that ‘but’ is of the J-Lo proportions. When you’ve seen your side conspire to draw 4-4 after leading 4-0 at Telford it’s hard not to think this way. Still, now is the time for positivity, at least Leicester aren’t the sort of side we’re going to crumble in front of and duly ship loads of goals to. Oh. Oh dear.
December’s 5-1 defeat at Leicester seems an awfully long time ago, but the fact that since that second half implosion Rovers have won just four fixtures speaks volumes as to why we are where we are. The perplexing penalty awarded to the Foxes as Neil Sullivan came out to gather the ball from the feet of Lloyd Dyer was not only the point on which that match swung drastically in the opposite direction, but could also be picked out as the fulcrum of Rovers’ season. Things have not been completely downhill since the team came out for the second half at the Walkers Stadium, but the subsequent peaks could be counted on one hand… one mitten wearing hand.
So, whilst the bullish will scoff at our nervousness going into these final two games there is evidence throughout the season to suggest luck has not been Doncaster’s friend. It is of course easy to retrospectively pick through the season and identify the what-if moments, but there are now plenty for us to chew on. What if Billy Sharp had stayed fit? What if the other dozen had stayed fit? What if there had only been six minutes injury time at Bramall Lane? What if Peter Walton hadn’t spotted a phantom foul at Oakwell on Monday? The answer to all of the above is, we would not be where we are now and could kick back and relax for some meaningless end-of-season football.
Luckily for us, that is exactly what Leicester City are likely to be doing after defeats at Reading and Nottingham Forest effectively ruled them out of the play-off chase. However, whilst the club has a whole has little to play for at the Keepmoat Stadium, the same cannot be said about the individuals. Thanks to healthy finances and the connections of Sven the Foxes have a large pool of talent at their disposal and are also likely to be significantly active in the summer transfer market to fuel a more effective promotion push next term. Several of the Foxes squad will be aware of this and will realise that they need to impress the Swede in closing games to remain in his plans next season; lest they end up playing for the likes of Doncaster next season. The likes of Doncaster? Exactly.
Rovers are likely to make a few changes from the side which lined up at Oakwell, chiefly in goal with Gary Woods having left the field on Monday with a thigh strain meaning Neil Sullivan is sure to return. There is a strong possibility that Mustapha Dumbuya will step down as Fan Liaison Officer to return at full-back, whilst Brian Stock or Mark Wilson will probably replace Ryan Mason as Sean O’Driscoll looks to put the emphasis on keeping the ball out of our net rather than putting it in Leicester’s.
Former Rovers midfielder Richie Wellens is expected to be the most notable absentee for the visitors; hopefully Sven Goran Eriksson will have as much difficulty replacing him as Sean O’Driscoll has. The Foxes are boosted however by the return of Aleksander Tunchev after 18 months out with a knee injury; he came off the bench against Watford last week and could be in line for a start today.
Predicted Rovers line-up:
(4-3-2-1) Neil Sullivan; Mustapha Dumbuya, Wayne Thomas, George Friend, James O’Connor; Brian Stock, Simon Gillett, John Oster; Jamie Coppinger, James Hayter; Jason Euell
subs: Gary Woods, Sam Hird, Matt Kilgallon, Mark Wilson, Ryan Mason, Franck Moussa, Billy Sharp
Travelling to the Game
Given that the Foxes only previous visit to the Keepmoat Stadium came in midweek the chances are there will be a fair few Leicester supporters visiting Doncaster for the first time today. City fans can find all they need to know about the ground in our very own guide. Everything from how to get here 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 like your match updates rushed, misspelt and in 140 characters or less then look no further. Viva Rovers much heralded live match Twitter feed will be active throughout the game (phone battery and reception permitting). We’ll keep you informed with what’s going on, on the field and also what Geoff is whinging about in the stands and which 80s celebrity Nick is attempting to impersonate this week. If you’re on Twitter follow @vivarovers and look out for the #drfc hashtag for our take on the game, and. if you’re not a Twitter user fear not, you can still keep up with our reporting by refreshing the page at twitter.com/vivarovers.
For those of you who prefer your coverage to be a little more live and official then commentary is available via the club’s Rovers Player service courtesy of Chris Mortley, the hardest working press-officer in show business, and a small fee. Expect updates on the wireless via BBC Radio Sheffield and possibly even live coverage if you can pick up BBC Radio Leicestershire. Online, if you don’t want to trust our Twitter feed then the Beeb’s Live Text commentary is probably your best bet for keeping informed whilst on the box Final Score broadcasts throughout the afternoon via the red button. Expect Garth Crooks to be getting overly excited over not much in particular, but you can always nip to the toilet or go and put the kettle on at that point.