Stop. Hammer time. The first home league game of the season would ordinarily be a cause for optimism, indeed if you cannot be excited and foolhardy now when can you be? However, the combination of a mounting injury list already into double figures, and the significant strength and experience of today’s visitors mean there is something of a foreboding atmosphere around the Keepmoat Stadium as West Ham’s media -oved express bowls into South Yorkshire.
For West Ham in this season’s Championship, read Newcastle United of two seasons ago, or alternatively Leeds United in League One. As far as much of the media is concerned, coverage of this division during the season is likely to start an end with how the Hammers fair. They are the big fish in the small pond, and their close season acquisitions have suggested that those in East London are going all out to ensure their spell away from domestic football’s top table is as brief as possible.
Indeed there is evidence amongst some West Ham supporters that their Championship season is expected to be something of a one-off novelty holiday. During the summer supporters team the Donny R’sonists met their West Ham counterparts in the annual WorldNET competition, and their main concern over the impending league match in Doncaster was which footwear to go with. As R’sonist Alan Brown assured them; “don’t worry lads, we’ve got roads and everything now”, and if that was a shock to the system, the blow dealt by Cardiff on opening day may have gone even further in tempering expectations.
West Ham’s hopes of cantering back to the big time hindered somewhat from the outset by a home defeat to Cardiff City, meaning that they currently sit lower in the table than ‘the likes of Doncaster’. As shown in recent seasons Rovers have the capability and the knack of really surprising the sides who have recently dropped down from the top flight, or at least they do when at full strength. The bump and grind physical approach often favoured by the sides in the lower reaches of the Premier League is a far cry from Rovers approach to divisional survival, and we can often enjoy a stunned silence or two as Doncaster keep the ball, and keep the ball, and keep the ball. Whether an injury ravaged Rovers side can out-pass and move a team peppered with internationals though remains to be seen?
How about this for an outfield line-up? James O’Connor, Adam Lockwood, Shleton Martis, James Chambers; Mark Wilson, Martin Woods, Brian Stock; Ryan Mason, James Hayter, and Billy Sharp. Looks a good side in the favoured 4-3-2-1 formation, but frustratingly those are the ten players currently unavailable to Sean O’Driscoll owing to injury. Hopefully Mustapha Dumbuya has shaken off the virus he was suffering in the week and Chris Brown has benefitted from the rest afforded by an early exit from Tuesday’s League Cup tie so that list won’t grow any further.
For Sam Allardyce there are no such concerns ahead of the game, with just two Hammers players unavailable; Peter Kurucz and Gary O’Neil out with knee and ankle problems respectively. Julien Faubert missed last Sunday’s match with Cardiff owing to a hamstring problem, but he’s expected to be fit for this game. And as if United’s squad wasn’t strong enough Allardyce also has new signings John Carew and George McCartney to factor into his plans.
Predicted Rovers line-up:
(4-3-2-1) Gary Woods; Mustapha Dumbuya, Richard Naylor, George Friend, Tommy Spurr; Paul Keegan, Simon Gillett, John Oster; Jamie Coppinger, Giles Barnes; Chris Brown
subs: Neil Sullivan, Sam Hird, Oscar Radford, James Baxendale, Kyle Bennett
Travelling to the Game
West Ham fans are of course making their first trip to the Keepmoat Stadium, and indeed their first trip to Doncaster in over half a century. Hammers supporters 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.
Popular Stand fanzine
Issue 53 of Doncaster Rovers fanzine Popular Stand will be on sale ahead of this game. I’ll be selling them from the statue on the South East corner of the ground from 1:30pm through to kick-off, so why not pop by and say hello. We’ll also have a seller at the South West corner of the ground from 1:30pm until 2:00pm. And then from 2:00pm until kick-off there will be a seller on each block of West Stand turnstiles and one on the South Stand turnstiles too. The fanzine is as ever, still only £1
If at first you don’t succeed try, and try again, and so after battery issues at Brighton and connection problems against Tranmere the infamous Viva Rovers in match twitter feed will be hoping for third time lucky for this game. Yep, we’ll be tweeting updates live from the Keepmoat Stadium, bringing you all the action and Geoff’s token moans in 140 characters or less. To get these updates follow @vivarovers on Twitter ad keep an eye out for the #drfc hashtag, or alternatively non-Twitter users can keep refreshing the page online at twitter.com/vivarovers.
For those of you who prefer your coverage to be a little more live, a little more official and a little more costly, then full commentary is available via the club’s Rovers Player service. Expect updates on the wireless via BBC Radio Sheffield and possibly even live coverage if you can pick up one of the London stations, they have radio in London right? 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. As we’re playing West Ham you can expect regular updates and much writing off and generalisation about ‘the likes of Doncaster’ from Garth Crooks et al.