Whether he is involved in tonight’s game or not, all the talk at the Keepmoat Stadium is likely to be about one El Hadji Diouf. Love him or hate him, or perhaps tolerate him or hate him would be more accurate, the Senegalese forward is now a Rovers player, and will be for the next three months. The man turned down by Sam Allardyce due to opposition from West Ham fans and the basis that his lack of conditioning meant he was “not ready to play for a considerable time” does, it would seem, fit Rovers’ current plans.
“It’s not all about me. Doncaster have some good players and I hope they can help me as well,” Diouf told the official Rovers website graciously. Indeed the player shrugged off his poor reputation within the game, and suggested he just wanted to forget his troubles and cheer up; “I don’t think I’m a bad boy. I respect other people and I just want to play football and be happy.” But when not attempting to turn his career around by the mantra of Judy Garland show tunes, will Diouf actually feature? Should he be deemed fit enough for Rovers’ cause then Diouf can expect a frosty reception from the visiting fans given that he was charged by police whilst playing for Bolton seven years ago for spitting at an 11-year-old Middlesbrough fan.
Away from the off-field big-top what can Rovers expect to gain from tonight’s fixture? The official club website claims Saunders has targeted a minimum of eight points from November’s fixtures and it is certainly a realistic target, though he probably, and understandably, will be expecting to gain more from the month’s latter fixtures against Barnsley, Watford and Millwalll than this week’s matches with Middlesbrough and Ipswich. Though they were beaten at league leaders Southampton at the weekend, the Teesiders remain firmly in the promotion race and noticeably tough prospect for Rovers, as shown when they swept Doncaster aside at the Riverside in the final game of last season.
Based on Middlesbrough’s current standing and Rovers’ poor performance against Coventry on Saturday anything other than defeat from tonight’s game will be seen as a welcome return and a step in the right direction on the field, regardless of what unrest remains off it.
Though he missed Saturday’s game owing to family reasons, and was also expected to be absent tonight, rumour creeping toward Viva Towers suggests that Billy Sharp will feature in tonight’s game, and so can be expected to start ahead of Saturday’s goalscorer James Hayter. With Giles Barnes still recovering from the concussion he suffered on Saturday there is a clear opening for new signing El Hadji Diouf to come into the side, despite the effective performance of Jamie Coppinger. The back four and three central midfielders are likely to remain the same.
Middlesbrough will be without Jonathan Franks who remains sidelined following surgery on a troublesome shoulder. According to the BBC, Kevin Thomson is also set to miss the game due to a hamstring injury.
Predicted Doncaster Rovers line-up
(4-1-4-1) Neil Sullivan; Pascal Chimbonda, Shelton Martis, Richard Naylor, George Friend; Herita Ilunga; Kyle Bennett, Simon Gillett, Brian Stock, El Hadji Diouf; Billy Sharp
subs: Jonathan Maxsted, Sam Hird, Jamie Coppinger, Ryan Mason, James Hayter
Travelling to the Keepmoat Stadium
Middlesbrough fans making the trip to DN4 can find all they need to know via the ‘Keepmoat Stadium’ tab at the very top of the page. Details listed include where to pick your tickets up, how to get to the ground on foot, and a couple of local pub suggestions.
Having had a ticket generously donated to me, we will, battery and reception depending, be giving updates on tonight’s game via our twitter feed. Follow @vivarovers for in-game 140 character or less despatches from the Keepmoat and look out for the #drfc hashtag.
Fanzine on Sale
Issue 54 of the long-running Doncaster Rovers fanzine Popular STAND went on sale ahead of Saturday’s game, but if you missed out on a copy then, fear not, you’ll have a second chance to purchase one tonight. The remaining fifty copies will be on sale outside the West Stand from around 6:50pm up until kick-off. It is, as ever, still only £1. More details on the fanzine are available on the Popular STAND website.