When is a derby not a derby? When its Doncaster Rovers versus Leeds United that’s when. Sure we share a county, and we don’t care for them much, but this fixture is way down on our list of out-and-out proper derbies, and I should imagine a lot lower on their’s. It sits below Rotherham definitely, and I shall never be as pumped for a meeting with Leeds as I was our FA Cup fixture with Scunthorpe in 2001. My flat-mates disowned me that week. Some have barely spoken to me since.
Of course dispelling the notion of this fixture as a derby, does not mean that it is not a significant match. Tonight is the night where we should finally begin to see the initial orchestration of Dean Saunders’ masterplan. Forget the welcome yet fortuitous points picked up before the international break, as the tactics used there could only ever be ones of damage limitation. You can make your mark inside eight days, but you can’t mould things into your chosen shape. The positives from those games were that we didn’t lose, the negatives were the sheer awfulness of the first halves that preceded the victories.
But, as I’ve said since his appointment, it is too soon to judge the Saunders in any substantial manner and that why thus far the only thing of his we’ve really passed a telling judgement is the blue suit he donned for his first match in charge. Very Vincent Kartheiser in Mad Men. Possibly from Burtons. Tonight though we can properly begin to get a feel of what he’s orchestrating on the field, not least because we’ll see some of the recent acquisitions to the squad he inherited. Herita Ilunga and Chris Kirkland are both likely to begin tonight’s game, Pascal Chimbonda waits in the wings. How will these cards be placed into his existing hand.
I’ve been moonlighting as if my life depended on it this week, so here’s three other pieces on Doncaster Rovers v Leeds which I’ve penned for other websites in the last few days. For When Saturday Comes I give a brief summary of the change in approach Rovers have undertaken in the past few weeks. On Leeds site The Scratching Shed I answer a few questions on the Rovers and cast envious glances in the direction of Ramon Nunez. And lastly on The 72 I try to further dispel the notion of this fixture as a derby by attempting to get to the heart of why we really want to defeat Leeds.
Rovers remain without six players; Chris Brown, Adam Lockwood, Martin Woods, James Chambers, Mustapha Dumbuya and Tommy Spurr all out and unavailable with varying injuries. But no matter, for tonight we will see in the flesh the first new arrivals from Rovers’ change in approach. Chris Kirkland is the latest arrival and he is expected to step straight into the line-up, Saunders making hay whilst the sun shines, or at least before the hay goes down injured. Also likely to begin the game is Herita Ilunga, on loan from West Ham, which should see George Friend revert to centre-back, probably at the expense of Richard Naylor.
Simon Grayson has two major absentees to content with as he makes his team selection tonight. Alex Bruce remains out with an ankle problem whilst Davide Somma’s knee injury continues to limit his presence to the stands. The Leeds manager will be therefore hoping that Robert Snodgrass is passed fit after struggling recently with an ankle problem.
Predicted Doncaster Rovers line-up
(4-4-2) Chris Kirkland; James O’Connor, Shelton Martis, George Friend, Herita Ilunga; Jamie Coppinger, Simon Gillett, Brian Stock, John Oster; Billy Sharp, John Parkin
subs: Neil Sullivan, Richard Naylor, Kyle Bennett, Milan Lalkovic, James Hayter
Travelling to the Game
Leeds United supporters will be familiar with the Keepmoat Stadium after all they pass it every day on their way to and from work. However, if by some chance have never been to the ground before and you’re attending tonight, perhaps you’re the match referee, then you’ll find all you need to know under ‘Keepmoat Stadium’ tab at the very top of the page.
Sort of live match coverage tonight from @vivarovers, beamed directly from a Doncastrian living room as I’m not at the game. Don’t judge me. I’m jobless and broke. What do you care, you’ll all be watching it anyway.