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by Paul Williams

We beat Burton in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy last season so that is one omen that is in our favour ahead of tonight’s meeting at the Keepmoat.

It’s a tournament that holds found memories for Rovers’ fans but Paul Dickov must be tempted to rest a few of his depleted first-team squad in a competition that doesn’t normally get serious for clubs until the semi-final stage. You would certainly think that the likes of Andy Butler, James Coppinger and Andy Williams could do with a break having played every minute of every game so far.

But competition rules state that you have to play at least half of the team that started the previous league game and the manager has few option to switch things around, though Jack McKay, Billy Whitehouse and Liam Mandeville must all be close to a start and Cameron Stewart got half an hour in the win over Fleetwood.

The Brewers have made an excellent start to life in League 1 and have only lost once so far. So have Rovers, of course, but we’ve only managed one win compared to Albion’s four.

The visitors could include former Rovers midfielder Mark Duffy, who is on loan from Birmingham and scored his team’s winner at Shrewsbury on Saturday, though Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink will also make changes and is still without another loanee, Zeli Ismail, as well as Darius Charles.

This is very much a game that could go either way, though you’d suspect that there wouldn’t be too many tears shed by the losers. At least we’ll be spared extra time if it ends all-square in 90 minutes as this competition goes straight into a penalty shoot-out.
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by Paul Williams

Nobody would have remembered last season’s encounter with Fleetwood but for this tongue-in-cheek highlights package on YouTube, put together by DRFC’s SM (Social Media) crew, which went viral.

So, on with this week’s preview:

They score goals – we don’t; they have a full squad to choose from – we don’t; they didn’t play 120 minutes in midweek – we did.

Overall: it doesn't look too hopeful.
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by Paul Williams

Bear with me, here’s a hypothetical scenario.

Imagine you’ve inherited a country mansion and you have enough of a private income to employ a gardener.

But, for the past two years, you’ve been undecided about whether to keep the ancestral home or move back to the city. So you’ve been giving the aforementioned gardener a few quid in the spring to buy a few plants to keep the borders looking cheerful. He doesn’t do a particularly good job, but the garden is fairly tidy and there are a few strong, young shoots coming through in the nurseries.

Now, however, you’ve decided to stay. The rich cousin who wanted to take over the estate turned out not to have any money after all and you don’t want to hand over your inheritance to some un-named corporation so it can be turned into flats.

So now you ask your gardener for a shopping list of what he needs to restore the grounds to former glories. He gets most of what he wants but, when you open the bedroom curtains at the start of summer, the garden looks more miserable than ever. Visitors have stopped coming through the gates and those of the new shoots that have been moved from the nurseries are being kept in the shade by old plants which have done blossoming.

Your gardener makes the excuses that some of the flowers he went out and bought arrived with blackspot, which has spread, and even some of those plants that are established have died back. You’ve come to the conclusion that your employee probably isn’t that good at what he does but is the type that will always have an excuse – would you be justified in giving him his cards?

A home game against Ipswich brings back nightmares about Connor Wickham, Gary Woods and ‘The Experiment’.

It’s unlikely that the Championship table-toppers will be unduly concerned about a cup match against a side that’s only outside the League 1 relegation places at present because there are a lot of poor teams in the third tier. Mick McCarthy even played the kids against Stevenage in the first round so maybe he’ll also take pity on injury-stricken Rovers, who are also likely to give some youngsters a chance so wearier legs can be rested.

Given the disdain with which the Capital One Cup is treated in the early stages  – it’s hard to believe that the final of this competition actually attracts a capacity crowd to Wembley.
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by Paul Williams

Two weeks into the new season and we’re still undefeated and in the second round of the Capital One Cup. But some would say that’s where the good news ends. We still haven’t scored a goal in open play after 420 minutes of football – no-one in their right mind could count that farcical finale to the Bury game. Of course, by the same token, you could say that we haven’t conceded yet in the league but that’s largely down to the excellent Thorsten Stuckmann.

Our new German goalkeeper has certainly impressed and PD’s summer signings, on the whole, are all seasoned pros who should be an asset in League 1. Sadly, our manager is still pursuing his predilection for forcing square pegs into round holes and, with Nathan Tyson’s injury, the squad is so devoid of pace that there are rumours that we’ve been assigned a motorway escort for the team bus to warn road users of a slow-moving vehicle.

I think we can deduce that the Rovers’ piggy bank is no longer rattling so new additions are likely to be over the horizon and Harry Forrester’s early exit on Wednesday suggests he may be a doubt for the trip to Vale Park, where we’ve rarely excelled. Maybe it’s the drafty Sixties-style stands that are so unwelcoming, or the attitude of the club itself towards away supporters which stems from a similar era. However, I do remember winning a televised game in the Potteries a few years ago when Radio Sheffield’s expert summariser Mickey ‘He’s a big mate of mine’ Walker was temporarily head honcho.

What’s for certain is that the wide-open spaces on the pitch at Vale Park are unlikely to suit the senior members of our overworked midfield and you just know that the decision to send Uche Ikpeazu back early from a loan spell last season will return to bite us in the rear at some stage – I suppose we might as well get it over with.
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by Paul Williams

Is it really more than seven years since Copps’ unforgettable hat-trick against Southend United on a night on which the whole of the Keepmoat was rocking? I’ve still got that on a CD somewhere.

We all remember what that led to, of course, so maybe it’s pointer that Rovers meet the Shrimpers for the first time since less than a week since they recorded a first-ever victory against Leeds at the Keepmoat.

I’m sure Paul Dickov would love to rotate his squad a little in the midst of a busy run of matches but circumstances are conspiring against the Rovers manager. Paul Keegan is still absent, as is Danny N’Guessan, and they’ve been joined on the treatment table by Nathan Tyson, who could be out for a few weeks. Richard Chaplow is back in training, however, and could be fit enough for a place on the bench this Wednesday. Either Rob Jones or Gary Mackenzie will again partner Andy Butler at the heart of the defence but otherwise the line-up will be similar to the one that started Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Wigan and the Capital One Cup game against Leeds.

Southend, who scrambled up via the play-offs last season, started off the new campaign with a creditable draw at Fleetwood but were never at the races when beaten 2-0 by Walsall in their first home game. They are supposedly better on the road and Brian Horton will able to give Phil Brown a rundown on what to expect given he was in the Rovers’ dug-out up until May.

Performances have been good so far but chances need to be taken if Rovers are to stay on the heels of the early pace-setters. Tyson’s injury is a blow but the manager says he is no hurry to buy or loan a replacement, so let’s hope Curtis Main uses his absence as the incentive to show fans that he can produce the goods on a regular basis – three points please, just to settle the nerves.
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