ITEN Match Preview: Lincoln (H)
Rovers are back in action earlier than scheduled, but later than expected, as they host old rivals Lincoln City in a lunchtime kick-off at the Keepmoat Stadium on Saturday.
Switched to a 12:30pm start time by the local police force (a move also made for our local derby with Rotherham in two weeks’ time) presumably on the anticipation of violence between the more unsavoury elements of both fan bases, it is a chance for either side to steal a march on the division with a draw enough to take Danny Cowley’s men back to the top of the table, and a win sufficient to put Rovers in the Play-Off spots, albeit for just a few hours.
This game represents a first league meeting between the sides since 2004, when the Imps ran out 2-0 winners at Belle Vue despite Rovers sitting 2nd in the Third Division table at the time. Rovers of course went on to win the title that year and contrasting fortunes in the 15 years since mean only a pair of minor cup games have taken place between two teams once considered quite bitter rivals since.
Confidence growing for Moore’s work-in-progress
Darren Moore should be encouraged by his side’s ability to fight having come from going a goal down in each of the first three league games, battling on to earn a victory over Fleetwood last Saturday despite struggling at times to find their rhythm. As a club, Rovers will be keen to refocus matters on the pitch after the controversy spawned from the surprise cancellation of the midweek trip to beleaguered Bolton and a tasty derby match is the perfect way to do just that.
How many of the club’s new and younger players will be especially up for the tough encounter ahead remains to be seen but encouraging full league debuts for Niall Ennis and Cameron John last weekend, plus a lack of any new arrivals during this week, mean the promising crop of rookies in the side should keep their place. Ben Sheaf had a mixed afternoon against Fleetwood but should also keep his place, whilst the added responsibility given to both Kieran Sadlier and Alfie May will be crucial in breaking down a strong Lincoln defence.
Visitors carry threat all over
Lincoln manager Danny Cowley talked up how difficult this game will be for his side, apparently owing to the fact we had a “fresh week” without the Bolton game, and the fact that the Imps have a small squad still adapting to League One football. The second point is undeniable, but Lincoln have made light work of it so far winning their first three games before coming unstuck at MK Dons despite dominating proceedings. That start included a hugely impressive 2-0 win down the road at Rotherham, so Rovers will have to be careful against a dangerous side with no trepidation about their capabilities in this league.
Controlling the play will be vital for Rovers, as Lincoln’s midfield are adept at carving out chances for a potent strike force. Joe Morrell has just been called up to the Wales squad, whilst Harry Anderson causes all manner of problems off the right flank. Up top, Tyler Walker has netted twice since signing on loan from Nottingham Forest, whilst Bruno Andrade and veteran John Akinde have been used off the bench to good effect in every game this season.
At the back, familiar faces abound but it is here that Lincoln look vulnerable. Jason Shackell is not quite the same presence he was when here a decade ago but can be decisive at both ends of the field, whilst full back Harry Toffolo has come on in his general play since a Rovers loan spell under Darren Ferguson and will link up with Jorge Grant meaning Brad Halliday must show more defensively than he did last weekend.