What better way to celebrate the Christmas period than a 92 mile round journey to South Yorkshire?
Whilst the fixture computer has failed to get into the spirit in setting a rather sizeable away trip, here are some crumbs of comfort. We have won our past four Boxing Day fixtures and have recorded back-to-back away league victories since March of 2013. Just two goals have been conceded in our past five league games as things have steadily improved since that embarrassing FA Cup defeat to Worcester City.
That being said, a 1-1 draw in our most recent home game against Fleetwood was a disappointing scoreline in a game we dominated but failed to create too many meaningful opportunities. Still though, it felt like a game that we would have lost a month or two ago and the team is getting better at salvaging points from losing positions. Things are slowly improving, but this a team that is still some distance away from playing to its true potential.
The introduction of James Maddison and Simeon Jackson made a big difference last Saturday. Simeon Jackson got a goal that might just restore his Coventry City career as Pressley looks to piece together his team for the rest of the season. Maddison though had the biggest impact on the game, he looks like a special talent, at one point taking down a goal-kick with his first-touch like it was the most run-of-the-mill thing ever. There is the worry that we are going to place too much of the creative burden on him at a young age but his performances are increasingly justifying that pressure.
Steven Pressley remains without the services of Reda Johnson which is a concern as we still have not won a game without him in the team. Josh McQuoid and Frank Nouble are both injury doubts this afternoon as well which means that Pressley may have to choose one from Saturday’s impact substitutes to start against Doncaster. Jackson would offer support for Madine who can cut a frustrated figure as a lone striker but as it’s an away game Pressley may opt for an additional midfielder in Maddison.
Possible Line-Up: (4-4-1-1) Allsop; Pennington, Webster, Martin, Haynes; O’Brien, Barton, Fleck, Swanson; Maddison; Madine.
Last Time We Met
Whilst Doncaster were the team who mathematically secured our relegation from the Championship two and a half seasons ago, we have the best out of the recent form between the two sides. Our most recent meeting came at the Ricoh Arena, which saw Adam Barton dominate the midfield in probably his best ever Coventry City performance and Cyrus Christie score a rare goal in a 1-0 win during a week where we were docked 10 points for going into administration.
Even more memorable was our last visit to Doncaster in December of that season. Having beaten Walsall 5-1 at the Ricoh Arena the previous week, Mark Robins’ Coventry City did what so few Sky Blues sides do and follow up one big win with another, against a Doncaster side who were joint-leaders of the division. A brace from David McGoldrick and goals from Franck Moussa and Adam Barton sealed an emphatic 4-1 away win.
How Are They Doing?
Doncaster Rovers edged over the line to promotion that season thanks to it not being a particularly vintage League One. They lost their manager Dean Saunders to Wolves mid-season and utilised Brian Flynn as a caretaker who did just about enough to seal the league title. Flynn was then moved to Director of Football the following summer and Paul Dickov was given the rare task of being handed the reins at a promoted side.
Whilst Dickov was not the most inspiring of appointments, he did keep them out of danger in the Championship for much of last season until a loss of form at the end and some last-minute heroics from Birmingham City. The summer saw the club in turmoil with a failed takeover attempt involving a former chairman and a One Direction star leaving the club in limbo and unable to sign anyone until the end of July with several key players leaving on frees.
For a recently relegated team to be sitting in lower mid-table might constitute an underachievement but there are mitigating circumstances. There is some genuine quality remaining in the squad with creative midfielders like Richie Wellens, James Coppinger and Harry Forrester having proven themselves to be a cut above League One level in the past. There is the sense though that Dickov is far too a cautious manager to ever get the best out of those types of players and he has spent his 18 months in the job getting the best out of more workmanlike players like defensive midfielder Paul Keegan.
We should be worried about their strikers though with Theo Robinson and Curtis Main both possessing a threatening turn of pace which means we can’t afford to leave space behind our defence. Robinson is only 25 but Doncaster are his ninth different club, he can be inconsistent but on his day he has pace as well as power and could be a real thorn in our sides this afternoon. Main has spent much of his career as a promising youth player, first with Darlington and then with Middlesbrough before joining Donny this summer, quick for height and a hard-worker, he is starting to live up to the potential that others have seen in him.
Possible Line-Up (4-4-2) Johnstone; Wabara, McCullough, Butler, Stevens; Coppinger, Wellens, Keegan, Bennett; Robinson, Main.
Doncaster have only won one home game in the league this season which should be seen as a massive opportunity to record a third away win in a row and set up the rest of the festive period nicely. Dickov’s tactics often mean that his side are uncomfortable taking the game to the opposition so if we can continue our defensive solidity whilst counter-attacking whenever possible there is a chance to exploit some tension amongst the locals. We will though need Jim O’Brien and Danny Swanson in particular to up their games after some frustrating performances in recent weeks.
I think we have every reason to be optimistic about this game, there is the chance that the festive period will motivate Doncaster’s players to put on a show for a bumper crowd but that would be going very much against the form book. I am predicting a 2-0 win for the Sky Blues.