Alfie, Arsenal & AFC Wimbledon
Updated: Jul 16, 2019
Alfie May: Living the Dream
There is a new hero at the Keepmoat Stadium, and his name is Alfie May. The ferocious southerner has started the season in scintillating form, notching four goals in as many games to hit the top of the club’s scoring charts and help the team to three victories from five outings in all competitions. His latest came in a Man of the Match display in midweek against Hull City, tucking away the opener with his left foot before squaring for Tommy Rowe to wrap up a 2-0 victory against a youthful Tigers outfit. May ran the show from start to finish for Rovers and, with this fine display adding to goalscoring cameos from the bench against both Blackburn and Blackpool in our last two league games, manager Darren Ferguson must now elect to put the confident striker in his starting XI on Saturday when we return to League One action at Wimbledon.
Whilst May has started both Carabao Cup games, scoring the opener against Bradford in addition to this week’s star showing, he has had to be content with substitute appearances in our first three league matches. Liam Mandeville has held down the second striker spot alongside talisman John Marquis despite having a niggling hamstring injury to contend with, and in truth the teenager has looked off the pace and unable to have a big influence on any of the games he’s played in. His replacement with Alfie May has had a direct influence on goals being scored in both of the last two games, and the question about which forward is more confident, in better form and at peak fitness is easily answered. Plucked from the humble surroundings of Hythe Town at the turn of the year, May is fast finding his way into the hearts of Rovers fans, and the travelling party at Kingsmeadow this weekend will surely all be hoping to see him in action again.
“We Owe Them One”: Rovers to meet Arsenal in Carabao Cup
The draw for the 3rd Round of the Carabao Cup may have been ridiculed from all sides due to its timing and venue (China, 4.15am UK time) but it threw out one of the most exciting ties in years for Doncaster Rovers. Eleven years on from arguably the biggest gut-wrenching loss in the club’s history, Rovers will get an unlikely shot at redemption in the same competition that matched us together before. Arsenal, former Premier League winners and Champions League finalists, will play host to Fergie’s boys at the Emirates Stadium in just under four weeks time, our first meeting since the Quarter Final at Belle Vue in 2006 that almost saw Rovers pull off a famous upset.
Our only survivor from that memorable and heartbreaking night, James Coppinger, tweeted this morning to say that he thinks “we owe them one”, and he couldn’t be more right. For anyone crammed into Old Belle Vue that night over a decade ago, Rovers came within a hair’s breadth of one of the most stunning wins ever seen in English football, as an Arsenal side boasting present and future stars such as Robin van Persie, Alex Hleb, Nicklas Bendtner and Gilberto Silva twice had to come from behind to deny Dave Penney’s underdogs and scrape through on penalties subsequently. The sight of Gilberto, a World Cup winner with Brazil only four years previously, driving home Emmanuel Eboue’s cross in what felt like the 10th minute of injury time at the end of extra time to force a shoot-out and scupper our dreams of a two-legged semi-final with Wigan will stay with me until the day I die, as will the fighting spirit of that 2006 Rovers side that had demolished Aston Villa and edged out Manchester City on penalties in previous rounds.
It was the best cup run in the club’s history, and now we get a chance to repeat it and take a slice of revenge for ourselves in the process, but it will be a tall, tall task against a Gunners side that remains one of the most formidable in the country. Still managed by Arsene Wenger as they were in our last meeting, Arsenal are the F.A. Cup holders and will be heavy favourites for a game that should see a huge following of Rovers supporters trekking south for the tie.
One Game At A Time: Rovers set for first league meeting with AFC Wimbledon
For now though, the focus must go on the immediate future, as Rovers get ready to take their unbeaten start to the season on the road again. This Saturday sees us visit Kingsmeadow to take on AFC Wimbledon, a club who have only existed for 15 years and will be taking on the Reds for the first time in their short history. There is much to admire about the meteoric rise of the community club forced into existence by the despicable uprooting of the original Dons to Milton Keynes back in 2003, a side who last season managed their best ever finish in the pyramid to come 15th in League One. Tipped to go down this year, Wimbledon have made a bad start to the campaign and already sit in the bottom four but of course it is still very early days yet, and the humble surroundings of Kingsmeadow, the former home of Rovers’ Conference rivals Kingstonian, will be a world away from the shiny surroundings of the Emirates or even Ewood Park, where we secured that brilliant 3-1 win against Blackburn in our last away fixture.
The big news for the home side this week is the loan signing of one Harry Forrester, signed from Rangers for the season in order to make his debut against one of his former club. Forrester never endeared himself to the Rovers faithful in his time here, more often than not appearing to be disinterested in working hard to further his and the club’s ambitions, and instead choosing to act like a show-pony. His potential is unquestionably high, but his exile from Rangers this summer is the latest in a line of career setbacks seemingly brought on by the man himself. He will have plenty to prove if he lines up against us this Saturday, but Fergie will surely know what to expect from a player he jettisoned rather swiftly upon entering the club two years ago.
A midfielder who did earn his place, figuratively and literally, among Rovers fans last season was Jordan Houghton. The holding man from Chelsea has ben recovering from a serious knee injury picked up playing in the hoops last term, but is now fighting fit again and is reportedly on his way back to South Yorkshire to sign on loan again. Returning to action in Under 23s action for Chelsea last week, Houghton looks set to fill the gap at defensive midfield that we have not managed to adequately fill since his injury, although he won’t be joining up with the squad until fully match ready next month. Either way, this is a big bit of business for the club and should finalise our summer transfer business.
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