Taking Stock: A Defining Week for DRFC
This article is written by Adam Stubbings, self-appointed Editor-in-Chief at ITEN and a lifelong supporter of the Rovers. You can find him on Twitter here, or by contacting the site directly via the comments section. —- Three wins in eight days have taken Doncaster Rovers to the brink of promotion out of League Two, an achievement that would mark an immediate return to the third tier and the first step in a five-year plan to take the club back into the Championship, a level we have proven we can compete at in the last decade.
Darren Ferguson has repaid the faith shown in him by the board last summer by moulding a talented squad of players into a group of winners, something which under predecessor Paul Dickov seemed impossible, and now the Reds stand with a clear task ahead: win the next two games and ensure that sweet success of promotion before Easter has even come.
The Express keeps rolling at Orient
Defeat at Carlisle on Valentine’s Day forced Rovers fans to admit that the club were going through a blip, but optimism remained that we could overcome that tough period and re-assert our position as clear favourites for the title, and in the seven games since that loss, Fergie’s boys have proven their mettle by avoiding another reverse, stretching out a seven game unbeaten run with three straight wins to push the club within touching distance of the season’s aim. A battling win over struggling Cheltenham was followed three days later by another home win, this time against Kevin Nolan’s resurgent and bullish Notts County, before a potential banana skin at crisis club Leyton Orient was side-stepped comfortably this past Saturday.
Make no mistake, for just over an hour the beleaguered O’s made life difficult for Rovers despite their obvious deficiencies, and whilst fans had to watch on as glorious chance after chance went begging, eventually the quality told and Rovers ran out 4-1 winners thanks to a double from John Marquis and a superb cameo off the bench from Gary McSheffrey. That result puts us 17 points clear of 4th place, a gap maintained last night when 5th place Luton squandered their game in hand by drawing away at Newport, and with only 24 points left on the table it now looks increasingly likely that Rovers will be toasting promotion in the coming weeks.
The timing of our trip to Orient was poignant, coming with both sides in polar opposite situations. Whilst we fly at the top of the division, Orient are on the brink of dropping out of the league altogether and potentially going out of business, a position we as a club and community know all too well. In many ways Orient owner Francesco Becchetti has shown himself to be the Italian version of reviled former Rovers owner Ken Richardson, and it is hoped that he will be made to sell the club he has driven into the ground by the summer so that Orient’s fans can rebuild their club and make a push to emulate ourselves in returning to the EFL stronger than before.
Taking to Alfie
Others will take the plaudits for our promotion this season should it happen but the part played by new signing Alfie May should not be overlooked when the history books are written. May has been an instant hit at the club and has all the makings of a fan favourite player for years to come, demonstrating bags of enthusiasm, determination and crucially, clear ability to earn his place in the starting line-up mere weeks after leaving the humble surroundings of non-league football down south. May notched his first goal against Luton last month and has put in a string of strong performances since, fitting in to our side well and showing his willingness to learn and improve as the games wear on.
In an interview with the Doncaster Free Press this week, May stated that he is living the dream, espousing his affinity for the way he has been welcomed in by all at Doncaster Rovers, whilst also showing the genuine emotion and desire that so often is accused of being absent in footballers these days. May goes on in that article to say “I said to one of the boys the other day, I’m nothing.
I’m still nothing.
I might be here but I’ve still got a lot to learn and to show people how much I want it.
I want to get goals and progress.
That is everyone’s dream.”
This attitude is exactly what will endear Alfie May to the Rovers fanbase and, if he can add those goals and that progression he speaks of, that will go a long way to establishing the diminutive cockney with us all for years to come.
Showdown on Sky
78 points in the bag and a chance to wrap up promotion away at local rivals Grimsby on April 1st, the tenth anniversary of our fabled JPT triumph at the Millenium Stadium, looming large, Rovers must ensure we head to Blundell Park in as strong a position as possible. This Mothering Sunday, the Sky Sports cameras will be in South Yorkshire to broadcast the top-of-the-table clash with Plymouth Argyle, our closest challengers in League Two, for a match that has a lot riding on it. Victory for Plymouth will bring them right back into the title race and ensure we have to wait a little bit longer for promotion, but a fourth straight win for Fergie and co. would put us at a surely insurmountable nine points ahead of the entire division, and potentially in with a chance of sealing promotion six days later at the seaside.
Further adding fuel to the fire are the events at Home Park in the reverse fixture back in December, one of only two defeats suffered by Rovers in their last 23 league games, when Liam Mandeville missed a penalty late on and received abuse from opposing keeper Luke McCormick for his troubles, an event which led to venerated Rovers captain James Coppinger being dismissed for defending his young team mate with a well-placed hand on the throat of convicted criminal McCormick.
The Argyle stopper was jailed in 2008 for causing the death of two young boys in a crash caused by McCormick’s reckless drink-driving. He was returning home from the wedding of former team mate David Norris, who hit the headlines himself for appearing to mark a goal for his then-club Ipswich with a “handcuffs” gesture in support of his friend. A week later, Norris came to the Keepmoat for a televised tie with Rovers and was mercilessly jeered for his behaviour. That abuse from the stands is nothing compared to what McCormick can surely expect in DN4 this weekend, but the hope is that the outcome of this game is the same as then: a home win for Rovers live on Sky.
The pre-match team talk has written itself for this game, our players will have the events of the reverse fixture firmly in their minds come Sunday, and the increasingly laughable comments from Plymouth’s manager Derek Adams and the local press down in Devon will have done nothing to dissuade the growing bitterness encompassing this clash, but Darren Ferguson is a staunch professional and he has drilled into his players a focus and steel that should be able to see us through in first position, beginning the final push against Plymouth that shouldn’t take in many more stops before the finish line now.