Sixteen games – that is how long Doncaster Rovers have gone without winning. Sixteen whole games, that is over 24 hours on the pitch since we picked up three points, to be precise we haven’t won a game since Tuesday 1st March 2011 – a period stretching over five months. In that time Rovers have suffered ten defeats and only managed six draws but the good news is that we are only four games into the new season, and our defeats have come at the hands of Brighton in their new stadium, promotion contenders West Ham and Nottingham Forest as well as a 3-0 thumping by in-form table toppers Derby at Pride Park. Looking at these opening fixtures before a ball was kicked, I wasn’t expecting much. In those four games Doncaster have only scored one goal and conceded seven – Rovers fans are obviously frustrated at these stats, some even calling for the head of manager Sean O’Driscoll.
The fans have been promised by Chairman and saviour John Ryan that a “loan star striker” will arrive at the Keepmoat to fill the boots of the injured players and last week Chelsea reserve star Milan Lalkovic joined on an initial one month loan. This could be a perfect move for both parties involved as his goals for Chelsea reserves cannot go unnoticed, hopefully he can become something special for Doncaster before the month is over.
For armchair fans of Doncaster, or any non-Rovers fan looking at the past four results, you would say we are in danger, but those that have been at the games would say different. At Brighton and Hove Albion we were arguably the better team in the first half and in the second half injuries to our two top strikers and luck on the Seagulls side ensured we came away with nothing. After conceding the early goal against West Ham United we stood toe to toe with arguably the best side in the division, making easy work of keeping possession, however with one fit striker in the squad we slumped to another defeat. Nottingham Forest was the same, Rovers the better team, making good use of space and possession but some good saves from Forest ‘keeper Lee Camp ensured McClaren’s men took all the points home.
On Saturday Rovers travelled to Pride Park to face Derby County, the ground our last league win came and it is also interesting to note that in all previous three league meetings at Pride Park we had a 100% record. However Derby’s encouraging start to the Championship this season means they have a 100% record and it was the Rams who took full control of a depleted Doncaster Rovers side, sending them packing with a 3-0 win, the first real loss of the season where the Rovers fans came away and didn’t feel hard done by.
With main players still on the injury table including James O’ Connor, Martin Woods, Brian Stock, James Hayter, Ryan Mason and Billy Sharp Rovers could fade away very quickly, however based on the opening three games of the season I believed we played pretty well and were unfortunate to not have taken anything from them. Once most of the injured make their way back into the team we can turn this season around and start moving forward.
It could be the same story as our debut season in the Championship, where after going twelve games without a win (managing a mere two draws) and we were rock bottom of the table as everyone tucked into their christmas turkey, however after a 4-2 win against Nottingham Forest on Boxing day we turned our season around and climbed up to a very respectable 14th. During that time we won seven out of eight games including one draw in a remarkable run that saw us the most in-form team of the Championship. Out of the last 23 games that season, there was only Sheffield United who racked up more points than Doncaster.
Tomorrow we play host to Leeds United at the Keepmoat. Although it is only a Carling Cup match, a win here could help carry momentum through into the league ahead of entertaining Bristol City on Saturday, the last game before the international break. Leeds have also been slow off the mark this season – despite their Carling Cup win against Bradford City, they have only managed to pick up four points from four and although that is much better than Rovers’ return so far, question marks hang over Leeds and whether they can repeat their top seven finish of last season. Doncaster and Leeds clashes have made for entertaining viewing in recent years such as at Elland Road last season where we played out a thrilling encounter with the home side, coming from 2-1 down to win 5-2. Memorable matches also include Rovers’ famous wins at Elland Road and Wembley, but they’ve never managed to defeat Leeds United on home soil.
Of course the priority at the moment will be the league game on Saturday against Bristol City and our season needs to get back on track fast. A win tomorrow may just boost morale and kick-start the season. Some think it may already be too late for the Yorkshire club, but in reality there is 126 points still left to play for. Sixty three hours of football remain until the final whistle is blown and I will not accept our season is over until then.
Keep the faith…
Written by Lee Croft, We Are Going Up’s Doncaster Rovers blogger
Lee tweets at @mr1croft