DONCASTER Rovers have fired themselves into a position of security in recent weeks as they host Queens Park Rangers at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Ably lead by boss Sean O`Driscoll, Rovers have transformed themselves from relegation fodder to mid-table security while displaying a brand of football that has become synonymous with the club under the tenure of the former Bournemouth boss.
Striker Paul Heffernan has been key to the Rovers revival in recent weeks, with three goals in five games nice complimenting that of midfielders James Coppinger and Brian Stock who have weighed in with 11 goals between them this season.
Defeats in Wales against Swansea City and Cardiff City, the latter coming on Saturday, has not appeared to have scuppered the confidence of the Yorkshire outfit who continue display a positive style of open, attacking football.
Rangers by comparison have watched their season peter out into mediocrity despite a positive start by boss Paulo Sousa. After an initial run of only one defeat in 13, Sousa`s side are without a win in seven scoring only four goals in that period.
Their form however has considerably improved on the road with only one defeat away from Loftus Road this calendar year. They will need this away form to hold up to a stern challenge as they face the resurgent Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium tomorrow night.
View From The Bench
Rangers boss Paulo Sousa revealed to QPR.co.uk that his strike force is suffering at present.
He said: ‘It’s not just today that we’ve been unlucky. This is a difficult moment for us in front of goal, but we are building.
‘This last month or so has been tough, but I am happy with our solid base and we proved today that we are a good, good side.
‘We returned to being a better solid team defensively today and I am pleased with that.
‘At the other end, we created a lot of chances to win the game, but the final important touch was missing.’
Doncaster Rovers boss Sean O`Driscoll was scathing of his side`s display as they went down 3-0 away to Cardiff City. He told the BBC of his disappointment.
He said: ‘That was the worst performance by the team not just for this season but last season as well.
‘We didn’t start well and in all areas we were second best.’
Doncaster Rovers Team News:
Rovers will make changes to the side that slumped to defeat in Cardiff at the weekend to bring to an end an excellent set of recent results.
Neil Sullivan will continue in goal for Doncaster with Barnsley loanee Kyle Letheren acting as back up for the former Tottenham and Chelsea veteran.
There has been a familiar back four during the Rovers revival with the central defensive partnership of Sam Hird and Matthew Mills excelling at the heart of the rearguard. They are flanked by former West Bromwich Albion defender James Chambers and Gareth Roberts.
Combative midfielder Richie Wellens will start in midfield once more, but whether he`s partnered by Brian Stock is a matter for debate as the ex-Bournemouth man was hauled off little after half an hour into the defeat against Cardiff.
Mark Wilson will be looking to force his way into the line-up having mainly come from the bench in recent games. John Spicer, Martin Woods and James Coppinger will all by vying for a spot in midfield as Doncaster go with just the solitary man up front.
Paul Heffernan could be set to return in that role after suffering from illness prior to the weekend defeat in the Welsh capital. He was replaced by Jason Price, a former QPR target, who failed to make the necessary impact on the fixture.
The man whose header saw them into the division, James Hayter, is also poised for a chance along with January transfer window capture Dean Shiels as boss O`Driscoll weighs up his options.
Unavailable to him however are long-term absentees Sean McDaid (knee), Ben Smith (ankle), Steve Brooker (ankle) and Jos van Nieuwstadt (groin).
Team v Cardiff City:Neil Sullivan; James Chambers, Matt Mills, Sam Hird, Gareth Roberts, John Spicer (Mark Wilson 34), Richie Wellens, Brian Stock, Martin Woods, James Coppinger (James Hayter 62), Jason Price (Dean Shiels 62).
Player to watch: Brian Stock
Vital QPR has singled out midfielder Brian Stock as the One to Watch as the R`s travel to the Keepmoat Stadium tomorrow night.
To view all the stats on the One To Watch Click Here >>>
Queens Park Rangers Team News:
Paulo Sousa will look to adapt his line-up after a brutal fixture schedule begins to take its toll on a jaded Rangers outfit.
A Radek Cerny will continue in goal after a good performance against Sheffield United at the weekend, that has helped to hide the scars of his previous errors, most notably against Norwich City, that have cost Rangers dear in recent weeks.
The defensive unit should remain the same after a clean sheet and positive display against a promotion chasing side in Sheffield United. Damion Stewart and Kaspars Gorkss will once again link up in the centre of defence, with the familiar faces of Matthew Connolly and Damien Delaney slotting in at full back.
Liam Miller is yet to complete a full game for QPR, and is struggling to make a genuine impact on the Championship, with the likes of Hogan Ephraim and Matteo Alberti waiting in the wings his days may be numbered in a tired Rangers midfield unit. Jordi López looks set to continue after impressing in his holding role with Mikele Leigertwood looking to improve on an inconsistent display.
Should Lee Cook be fit to return following injury he will line up on the left flank with Wayne Routledge reverting to the right wing after playing a free role behind the front two – a striker would be sacrificed to incorporate Cook on his return.
This would be no big loss as Samuel Di Carmine is the only forward to bag a goal since the R`s last victory back in late January against Blackpool. Dexter Blackstock and Heidar Helguson have been firing blanks with Angelo Balanta only receiving fleeting opportunities from the bench.
Long-term absentees Rowan Vine, Akos Buzsaky and Martin Rowlands will once again be missing from the sixteen while Patrick Agyemang will be looking to regain his fitness before rejoining the squad.
Player to watch: Mikele Leigertwood
Mikele will be one of many players that will look to bounce back from some recent poor form to claim a win in Yorkshire tomorrow night.
His misplaced passing and generally poor display saw him hauled off against Sheffield United at the weekend, who were no doubt revelling in the fact that their former player didn`t come back to haunt them.
Leigertwood is an inconsistent performer in midfield, but on his day has proven to be a key asset, something that alerted several Premier League clubs in the January transfer window.
He will be looking to put in a much-improved performance in the heart of midfield as Rangers hope to pick up a much-needed victory to keep their playoff hopes alive.
To view Leigertwood`s profile Click Here >>>
Doncaster Rovers: Last 5 Games: W L W W L
QPR: Last 5 Games: L D L L D
Doncaster has soared up the table with a succession of victories that could well prove priceless come the end of the season. Rovers are undefeated at home in 2009 having won their last three games at the Keepmoat Stadium by the odd goal.
Paulo Sousa`s side have found the going tough of late with seven games without a win, while the prowess of their forwards has also come under fire only bagging four goals in the Championship this calendar year.
Lenny367 has all the stats in The Stat-Attack >>>.
HEAD 2 HEAD
Doncaster Rovers: 5
Last Time Out
Saturday 23rd August 2008 – Loftus Road
Coca Cola Championship
QPR 2 (Dexter Blackstock 5, Emmanuel Ledesma 28)
Doncaster Rovers 0
Rangers Team: Radek Cerny, Damien Delaney, Fitz Hall (Matthew Connolly 29), Peter Ramage, Damion Stewart, Lee Cook (Angelo Balanta 72), Gavin Mahon, Mikele Leigertwood, Daniel Parejo, (Martin Rowlands 78), Emmanuel Ledesma, Dexter Blackstock.
See also: QPR 6-0 Doncaster Rovers – 17-09-66.
See also: Doncaster Rovers 1-1 QPR – 21-01-67.
Referee– Mr C H Webster
Assistants – Mr R M Clark & Mr C N Harwood
Fourth official – Mr R A Salt
Mr Colin Webster from Tyne and Wear will officiate the R`s clash with Doncaster Rovers tomorrow evening.
To get all the stats on the official Click Here >>>.
A tough fixture against a side intent on getting back to winning ways and proving their bubble hasn`t burst in their fight to stay in the division. Doncaster Rovers are an ambitious side and will be looking to take another scalp on home soil as Rangers take to the Yorkshire turf.
However Rangers have their own reasons to be fired up for this game, as this is the time of the season that players must stand up and be counted. As was highlighted a little while ago words count for nothing and the speaking must be done on the field this time out; Which is why I predict:
Boxer`s Prediction: 2-0 Rangers
Where– St Mary`s Stadium
When– Saturday 14th March 2009 – 3:00pm