• Adam Stubbings

ITEN Match Preview: Bristol Rovers (A)

Darren Moore faced his first big challenge as Doncaster Rovers manager when tasked with turning around a poor run of form that saw the team win just one game in nine before Christmas. He and his charges have met that challenge head on and come through with plenty of credit after an impressive three wins in four games, registering three clean sheets to boot.

By contrast, upcoming opponents Bristol Rovers are on the slide. Since manager Graham Coughlan left for Mansfield with the Gas in 4th place in League One, they haven’t won in six across all competitions. Now down to 8th, Donny will leapfrog their hosts in the table with victory at the Memorial Stadium this weekend.

The waiting game is okay…for now

Growing frustration with the club’s slow start to another transfer window is understandable as the club searches for reinforcements to this depleted squad. However, as detailed above the current crop are doing a perfectly good job anyway, which gives Moore and the club some breathing room. There is no doubt that squad depth is an issue – we have stressed that frequently on ITEN this season – but for now, fitness permitting, playing the waiting game is no bad thing.

In respect to this clash, an unchanged starting line-up is almost a guarantee. Cameron John is the only player who may push for a place if he has fully recovered from a hamstring strain, but it would be sensible to rest him a little while longer since the incumbent back four are in fine form. Niall Ennis put in his best display in a Donny shirt against Shrewsbury so fully merits keeping his place up front, regardless of the lack of alternative options at present.

Garner searching for identity

It has been a tough start to life in the manager’s seat for Ben Garner, who admits he is “not enjoying” himself so far. That should be music to the ears of Doncaster but that catalyst for a first victory is surely not too far away; it must be hoped that said turnaround waits another week for the Gas.

Garner could hand debuts this weekend to two new signings, young attacking midfielders Josh Barrett and Jayden Mitchell-Lawson signed from Championship clubs earlier this week. The new charges could help Bristol Rovers nail down their identity under the new boss, but such things typically take time so it will be an unpredictable line-up for Darren Moore to combat.

Top scorer Jonson Clarke-Harris remains the dangerman for the Gas, spearheading a 3-5-2 set-up that has struggled to find rhythm of late. Strike partner Tom Nichols, who missed a penalty in the reverse fixture back in October, has been told he can leave the club but started each of the last two games so may keep his place ahead of Victor Adeboyejo.


Darren Moore will look to complete the double over Bristol Rovers at the Mem this weekend, having overseen a solid 2-0 win at the Keepmoat Stadium three months ago. After Seny Dieng saved Tom Nichols’ first half penalty, Kieran Sadlier and Jon Taylor both netted to give the home side the three points. The wingers are both in good goalscoring form again at present so will be looked upon to deliver again in this fixture.

Bristol Rovers will see Donny as something of a bogey team these days, with the red and white hoops triumphing in a remarkable nine of the last ten fixtures, including a pair of four-goal hauls last season. In the last game at the Mem, Rovers ran out 4-0 winners with John Marquis scoring a great long-range effort. That run of wins also includes the 2007 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final win at the Millennium Stadium which was secured by a Graeme Lee header in Extra Time.

Key Battle

Tom Anderson is the man in form at centre half for Doncaster, putting in back-to-back Man of the Match displays the past two games. His task this weekend is to neutralise Jonson Clarke-Harris, one of the division’s leading scorers and comfortably Bristol Rovers’ biggest threat. The sought-after striker has racked up 11 goals in 21 games despite suffering a couple of injuries, so will be hard to handle for Anderson and defensive partner Joe Wright.