If you’re anything like me you’ll spend an hour a day rocking back and forth in the corner of the living room crying and wondering where your youth went. In addition to this, you will also have consoled yourself after Rovers 0% start to the season with the knowledge that on the horizon lay a trip to Pride Park. Never mind Forest or West Ham or Brighton, we always win at Derby, you’ll have said, and then gleefully skipped off to check the League table. Before swallowing hard and reaching for the emergency gin.
Yep, Rovers are rock bottom, and the usual three-point factory that is a league game away to Derby County looks like it may have started churning out a new product. The Rams record this season is currently a mirror image of Rovers’ fortunes; an embarrassing League Cup exit to Shrewsbury already long forgotten thanks to what their American owners would term a ‘three for three’ Championship record. Birmingham, Watford and Blackpool have already been swatted aside by Nigel Clough and he’s currently aiming his rolled up newspaper at The Likes of Doncaster.
A promising first hour of the season for Rovers, went quickly downhill the moment Billy Sharp began beating the Amex Stadium turf in frustration. Since then, the additional losses of James Hayter and Ryan Mason have neutralised what looked a promising attacking Doncaster side, and the results have borne this out as Rovers, though impressing with the ball against both West Ham and Nottingham Forest have failed to hit the net. The statistics bear out the fan’s frustrations too, as pointed out by Viva Rovers reader Mike Follows earlier today, Derby have had just eleven shots on goal in their three league games, Doncaster in comparison have had 26, and yet its County who sit 21 places higher in the Championship going into this game.
Of course, despite what supporters of Derby, Southampton and Brighton might tell you this week, early season tables, forged as reassembled sides take time to find their feet, mean very little. However, there is something which can be read from the sides sitting around Derby in the top four positions, and that is the importance of momentum. Newly promoted Southampton and Brighton are the only other sides with 100% records, whilst Middlesbrough, the form side at the back-end of last season are also unbeaten. This is where the concerns lie for Rovers, in the creature of habit. It has now been fifteen league games since Doncaster last tasted victory – 3-1 at Derby in March – and it is that sequence which needs to change more importantly than their tactics or approach.
Guess what. Rovers have loads of players out injured. Oh you knew. OK, well for the sake of consistency lets list the injured contingent once again. James Chambers, James O’Connor, Adam Lockwood, Shelton Martis, Martin Woods, Brian Stock, Ryan Mason, James Hayter and Billy Sharp. The only positive for Sean O’Driscoll is the addition of Chelsea forward Milan Lalkovic, who joined Rovers on a one-month loan on Thursday; he is expected to go straight into the matchday squad.
Derby County are without four players of their own, with the BBC reporting that Nathan Tyson and Shaun Barker are unavailable owing to groin and knee injuries respectively, whilst both Dave Martin and Conor Doyle are sidelined with ankle problems. Two other players remain a doubt for manager Nigel Clough, with James Bailey and Jamie Ward expected to undergo fitness tests on the morning of the match. Ex-Rovers Gareth Roberts and Paul Green should both feature in the County squad.
Predicted Doncaster Rovers line-up
(4-2-2-1-1) Gary Woods; Mustapha Dumbuya, Sam Hird, George Friend, Tommy Spurr; Simon Gillett, John Oster; Jamie Coppinger, Kyle Bennett, Giles Barnes; Chris Brown
subs: Neil Sullivan, Richard Naylor, Mark Wilson, James Baxendale, Milan Lalkovic
Travelling to the Game
If you’re driving to the game the M1 offers the most sensible starting point to head to Derby, leaving the motorway for the A52 at Junction 25. The ground is on this side of the city and is signposted after about seven miles on your left. Parking at the stadium is limited though you will, like the Keepmoat, find a few enterprising local businesses offering their car-park for the princely sum of £6. As we were advised by a Derby fan last year, one such example of this the Frenger Systems/DIPT car park which is just 100 yards from the stadium. To get here leave the A52 at the slip road and as you get to the first island you will see the stadium in front of you; proceed towards it and go over the next island and then turn right into Riverside Road, the car park is the first right turn, after about 50 yards.
Those of you heading to Derby on the train will be glad to know that the station is fairly close to Pride Park. Head out of the station’s east exit (not the main one) and turn right, then bear left at the roundabout. Follow this road and the stadium will come into view.
Sadly we won’t be offering Viva Rovers coveted in-match twitter updates for this game, although those of you who’ve followed us so far this season would probably say that was nothing new. However, if you want updates of the big FA Cup game between Silsden and Rossington Main (as that’s where we’ll be) follow @vivarovers. For more substantial commentary (of Rovers not Rossington) there is the official club website’s Rovers Player service available through the site for a fee.
Alternatively on-line you can also get regular updates from the BBC’s Live Text service where detail outweighs description with a ratio of about 19:1. If neither of those options suit you there will be updates on the BBC local radio stations in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire; possibly even live match coverage on Radio Derby. On television, hit the red button on the Beeb for their Final Score programme, and hit the mute button whenever Gaby Logan says “Garth, your thoughts?”.