After picking up just a point from a trio of games against sides in their own half of the table, Rovers face an even more daunting task at the Keepmoat Stadium today as League leaders Southampton roll into DN4. After seven points from a possible nine in his opening week in charge manager Dean Saunders is struggling to find form from his assortment of new acquisitions and so expect to hear him humming Yazz’s most famous hit if he passes you on his way into the ground’s Main Reception today.
Southampton of course are on a roll, whilst defeat against Bristol City last week upset their form record it has done little to halt the Saints’ momentum. After promotion from League One last season they have carried on where they left off in May and in a bid to emulate Norwich’s brief stay in this tier now lead the division. That defeat to the Robins was the one game from Southampton’s last six that they have not won, and if that wasn’t daunting enough for Rovers fans, the Saints have won more and scored more goals than any other Championship side. Can you hold a ball in the corner for 90 minutes?
Rovers are again struggling for numbers today. Along with the long-term absentees (John Oster, Martin Woods, James Chambers, Tommy Spurr) Doncaster remain without Richard Naylor, Shelton Martis, and the new boys Pascal Chimbonda, El Hadji-Diouf, and Habib Beye. Herold Goulon has shaken off a knock picked up at Millwall in the week and so if fit will undoubtedly play, whereas there is an encouraging boost with George Friend likely to return to the side, most likely in the place of the absent Beye.
According to the BBC, Southampton’s main absentee will be the forward David Connolly who remains sidelined with a groin problem. As such Lee Barnard is tipped to get his first start of the season for the Saints, whilst winger Steve de Ridder could also make the leap to the starting XI after an impressive performance against Hull in the week.
Carl Ikeme; James O’Connor, Sam Hird, George Friend, Herita Ilunga; Simon Gillett, Herold Goulon, Brian Stock; Jamie Coppinger, Marc-Antoine Fortune; Billy Sharp
on the bench: Neil Sullivan, Mustapha Dumbuya, Giles Barnes, Kyle Bennett, James Hayter
Southampton have visited the Keepmoat Stadium before, but now they’re winning, and we all know deep down that success brings more fans to games. So if you’re a Saints fan heading to Doncaster for the first time don’t panic, firstly all that you’ve heard is an exaggerated tale and besides its very unlikely you’ll contract a sexual disease on the walk from the station to the ground, not impossible, but highly unlikely. And secondly, all you could wish to know about the Keepmoat Stadium can be found on this site, via the obviously named ‘Keepmoat Stadium’ link at the top of the page. Beneath this tab you’ll find everything from where to pick up your ticket, to walking directions to the Stadium and some pre-match pub suggestions.
Boom! (as hype-embracing American comedians are at a want to say) We’re back in action. The phone appears to be working, we’re at the game, only ropey reception stands between us, and concise cynical 140 character updates of today’s match. So, to keep up with the game with us follow @vivarovers for these despatches and look out for the #drfc hashtag.
Issue 55 of the long-running Doncaster Rovers fanzine Popular STAND is on sale before today’s game; the fanzine which costs just £1 (as it has since being launched in 1998) can be bought at these locations outside the ground.
If you can’t make it to the Keepmoat Stadium, or Championship football sits out of your price range, but still fancy taking in some live football then fear not, there’s a few games locally for you to enjoy. In the FA Vase, Askern Villa have advanced to unchartered territory and host West Auckland Town today in the 3rd round. In the Evostick Northern Premier League Frickley Athletic host Chasetwon at the Tech5 Stadium, whilst in Division One South Goole AFC host Market Drayton Town at the Victoria Pleasure Grounds. All three games kicking off at 3pm.