Can you have ‘six-pointer’ fixtures in mid September? More pertinently, can Rovers really have a ‘six-pointer’ against Reading? The Biscuitmen (never The Royals on this site) have been Rovers bogey side over the past three seasons in this division, with a goalless draw at the Madejski two years ago bringing Doncaster their solitary point from six second tier meetings. At the start of the season we would have all written this off as an inevitable loss, and yet Reading’s poor start to the season means that should it be lost now it will become more ammunition for the SO’D out brigade currently patrolling internet messageboards.
Only twice in the last twenty meetings between these two sides have Rovers triumphed, however if you’re going console yourself in the fact that firstly, we’re due a win, and secondly, that when they do come along they’re normally memorable ones. September 1984 was Rovers last victory in this fixture, a 4-1 thumping at a presumably shell-shocked Elm Park, whilst our only home win came two years previously, the infamous 12 goal thriller which saw Doncaster win 7-5 at Belle Vue; future Rovers manager Kerry Dixon managing the rare feat of scoring four goals and still ending up on the losing side.
But, history alas cannot save us now, hopefully a returning captain can. Brian Stock will return to the squad after making it through a behind closed doors friendly with Grimsby in the week, which could allow for a more stable midfield should O’Driscoll choose to start the skipper, alongside John Oster and Simon Gillett. It could allow for a return to the manager’s preferred 4-3-2-1 set-up, and personally that’s something I’d like to see, ideally with Jamie Coppinger and Milan Lalkovic forming the two behind James Hayter’s one, though with Mustapha Dumbuya impressing supporters of last week’s opponents Cardiff City in his more advanced role, the manager may be more inclined to remain with a central back three.
Reading, though they have recently acquired Adam Le Fondre from those poor unfortunates down the road, are thought to be struggling to overcome the loss of Shane Long, hence their slip to twenty-third in the table. However, its arguable that the departure of defensive linchpin Matt Mills has proved just as significant, indeed we speak from experience, as two years on, we are still struggling to replace the man ourselves. After five successive defeats the Biscuitmen come into this match on a worse run of current form than the Rovers, hopefully that will still be the case come five o’clock tomorrow.
Enjoy the game if you’re going. And take lots of pictures. Reading’s staff and stewards love that.
Rare positive news for Rovers fans, with Brian Stock and Shelton Martis having survived a ninety minute run out in a behind closed doors match against Grimsby on Tuesday. The pair should go straight into the squad for this game though, perhaps only the former is in contention for a starting place. Ryan Mason will return to training next week, whilst there is also pleasing news regarding Billy Sharp who will not need surgery on his ankle injury, but both remain some way away from the first team squad.
Reading manager Brian McDermott’s main concern at present is the fitness of attacking players Noel Hunt and Hal Robson-Kanu. Hunt sat out Saturday’s defeat to Watford with a back problem, whilst Welsh international Robson-Kanu is being hampered by a knee injury. Both remain a doubt for this fixture according to the BBC.
Predicted Doncaster Rovers line-up
(4-3-2-1) Gary Woods; James O’Connor, Richard Naylor, George Friend, Tommy Spurr; John Oster, Simon Gillett, Brian Stock; Jamie Coppinger, Giles Barnes; James Hayter
subs: Neil Sullivan, Mustapha Dumbuya, Shelton Martis, Kyle Bennett, Milan Lalkovic
Travelling to the Game
Easily accessible if you drive, terrible to get to if you don’t. For Reading, read the Ricoh. Right by the motorway, but miles from the town centre, it’s just another reason why non-drivers like me hate modern out of town stadia. On my one visit I decided to fly in the face of progress and walk from the station to the ground… as scenic a river side route as I chose, it still took the best part of an hour in each direction so I wouldn’t recommend doing the same.
Instead, if you are arriving by train follow the advice of the excellent Football Ground Guide website and catch the No.79 Football Special bus to the Stadium for £3.50 a return ticket. The buses begin departing from 1:00pm, just turn right as you come out of the station and you’ll find them 200 yards along that road. The advice is to catch the bus to the ground no later than 2:00pm as they can get stuck in traffic. If you’re driving you need to leave the M4 at Junction 11 and from there you’ll have done well to miss it.
Also be prepared for over-zealous stewarding and security on the away fans gate. In 2009 I was made to do a whole lap of the stadium to leave my camera in the club reception and was searched three times before finally getting into the ground. We really are much friendlier up north.
No live match coverage this week from @vivarovers, indeed at the time of writing it looks more likely that we’ll be at Guisely vs Worcester City, but we will do our best to keep followers informed of events in Berkshire.
Alternate Local Games for Local People
Just because you can’t get down to Reading doesn’t mean you can’t go along to a game and support your local team, with five sides all in action near enough to get you off the sofa. For those in the North East of the borough there’s a game at the Victoria Pleasure Grounds as Goole take on Shepshed Dynamo in the Northern Premier League Division One South. Armthorpe Welfare continue to soldier onwards in the FA Cup and they host Stocksbrige Park Steels in the 1st Qualifying Round at Church Street. For those in North Notts Retford United face Lincoln Moorlands Railway in Northern Counties East League Division One at Canon Park, whilst two of the town’s Central Midlands League sides are also at home; Thorne Colliery vs Clipstone Welfare and the inevitably feisty Yorkshire Main vs Kinsley Boys.