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by Adam Stubbings

Fans will be eager to see some football after the late cancellation of the local derby with Scunthorpe last Saturday, so no better time for a heated South Yorkshire clash with rivals Sheffield United in front of what could be a bumper crowd at the Keepmoat.

Rovers remain in search of a first win in five league outings following the weekend off and will be keen to consign successive home defeats, against Port Vale and Walsall, to distant memory with an improved showing here. That will be no easy task however as Nigel Adkins brings a Sheffield United side that seems to have our number in recent matches. They were superior in a 3-1 victory at Bramall Lane last September, with Rovers not aided by a first half red card for Gary Mackenzie, and they also managed a double over us last season on their way to a Play Off place. In fact they are without loss in the last six meetings dating back to a 2-0 win in front of the live television cameras in 2010. The Blades themselves haven't won in three games mind and the pressure is on as they've now slipped five points adrift of their minimum requirement for the season, a top 6 finish.

The postponement at Scunthorpe last weekend could be a blessing in disguise for Rovers, despite Darren Ferguson's touchline ban now carrying over to this crucial home fixture, with the squad nearing full fitness once more after an extra week with no game and following on from a busy period of games that saw a litany of injuries. The loss of defender Andy Butler and striker Nathan Tyson have particularly affected the performances of the team, and getting these two back to 100% in particular will give everyone in the side a huge boost.

The loan spells of both Lynden Gooch and Eddy Lecygne are up after next week's Barnsley game, and as it stands both will struggle to justify an extended stay if the rest of the squad stays largely in shape between now and then after failing to impressive on loan from Premier League clubs. If Tyson is fit to return against the Blades, Gooch could find himself out of the team as Fergie's preferred attacking line-up will be back in place. Liam Mandeville will still be hoping to be in the manager's thoughts up front also after his superb goal against Walsall, and Thorsten Stuckmann could be back in goal despite the able deputising of loanee Chris Neal in his absence.
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by Adam Stubbings

A lean spell is in danger of becoming a slump, and Rovers potentially most crucial spell of the season begins against local rivals Scunthorpe United this Saturday. The trip to Glanford Park is followed in successive weekends throughout February by derby matches with South Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United and Barnsley, and having failed to turn up in recent matches the team will need to step up their game in order to recover a faultering season.

The Iron have become our most bitter rivals in recent seasons as the two clubs have had virtually parallel fortunes, both enjoying unlikely spells in the Championship and subsequent setbacks. Scunthorpe are also our closest geographical rivals which has helped to fuel the fire in the feud.

Scunthorpe ended a seven game losing run against Rovers on Boxing Day as they came away from the Keepmoat with three precious points on Christmas courtesy of a lone goal from top scorer Paddy Madden. The manager who masterminded that victory, Mark Robins, has since been relieved of his duties at the club and they are currently searching for his replacement.

But, the Clarets are on the up in the league having struggled for much of the season, and going into this weekend's game are up to 13th in the table. They have won their last two games and sit two points clear of Rovers, who now languish in 16th place after successive home defeats in the last week, as far away from the Play Offs as they are the bottom four. A four game unbeaten run in the league has quickly turned into a four match winless run and whilst injuries have taken their toll over a busy period of fixtures, things just have not been gelling right on the field recently for Rovers.

Lynden Gooch was among a host of players in red and white who came under fire for their performances in the midweek loss to Walsall, and the potential return of Nathan Tyson could mean the Sunderland loanee loses his place. Another pushing for that spot is academy graduate Liam Mandeville, who netted the first goal of his senior career in that loss and has put in a string of strong performances from the bench of late. Chris Neal should continue in goal after a solid debut with Thorsten Stuckmann still out injured, and defensive improvements could come if Andy Butler can shake off a recent injury problem too.
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by Adam Stubbings

Picking up from the disappointment of a home defeat to Port Vale won't be easy for Rovers as third place Walsall head to the Keepmoat looking to bounce back from a setback of their own. Despite sitting just four points off the top of League One, the Saddlers suffered a heavy loss away at Championship side Reading in the F.A. Cup, despite knocking out Brentford in the previous round. More concerning for Walsall however was a knee injury suffered by goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, who was stretchered off late on and will surely miss Tuesday's match despite reports that the injury is not as serious as first thought.

Rovers themselves have a goalkeeper dilemma after Thorsten Stuckmann went off injured in the loss to Port Vale, but Marko Marosi ably deputised in his place and might be ready to take the opportunity if presented to him. The decision to put Richard Chaplow into the midfield trio appeared to backfire last time out, though in truth it wasn't a sterling showing from the team overall. Paul Keegan may return to the starting line-up after a rest, whilst Lynden Gooch looks to have done enough to continue his run in the team assisting Andy Williams in attack.

Walsall have won all of the last four meetings between the sides, with successive trips to South Yorkshire yielding three points. For those invested in the fates, both of those wins came in the month of February, and this clash will of course also take place in February after it was rearranged from last Saturday. Our last victory against the Saddlers came on the opening day of the League One title-winning campaign, a 3-0 scoreline at the Banks' Stadium in which David Cotterill scored a 45-yard goal on his debut. The Walsall line-up that day included current Rovers centre half Andy Butler as well as former Rover James Chambers, but our opponents are a very different proposition these days and are hoping to maintain their unlikely promotion push heading into the business end of the season.

The game also sees the return to Doncaster of former manager Sean O'Driscoll, who stakes a claim for the accolade of “Best Ever Manager” at the club having guided us to promotion into the Championship along with victory in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy in 2007. Rovers will be hoping it is a miserable return for the club legend, and will look to take full advantage of having four extra days preparation time for this fixture.
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by Adam Stubbings

In a fixture re-arranged from F.A. Cup 3rd Round weekend, Rovers host Port Vale looking to make it five games unbeaten in the league. The two sides sit side-by-side in midtable going into the game, both aspiring to compete for the Play Off places as we head towards the business end of the season.

Rovers come into the game off the back of two contrasting draws. A stirring comeback against current leaders Gillingham to earn a 2-2 draw in our last home game, and an altogether more drab showing in a goalless draw away at Fleetwood on Saturday. Manager Darren Ferguson has bemoaned the drop in quality from the team in their performances in these games, and will be looking for a reaction against Robert Page's Vale.

The Valiants are a point ahead of us having also drawn at the weekend, but were defeated soundly at Millwall the week before and have only two league wins in their last eight games. With as many wins as defeats and having scored as many goals as they have conceded, the word to sum up their season to date would certainly be 'average'. The early season promise they showed in a resounding 3-0 win over Rovers in the reverse fixture seems a long time ago for both clubs.

Unlike our last opponents, Port Vale have a long history of clashes with Rovers dating back to 1901, and currently possess a three match winning streak over us spanning the last 18 months. A four match winning run for Rovers preceded that, largely comprising our meetings during the O'Driscoll era, and Vale were very much suffering a decline during that spell. Both clubs are now back on an even footing after contrasting fortunes over the last decade, and this one has all the makings of a close affair.

Lynden Gooch made his debut at Fleetwood on Saturday and another young loanee, France U19 international Eddie Lecygne, could feature at the Keepmoat in this one. Injuries have caused a shake up to the selection of late, with Nathan Tyson and Andy Butler key names missing on the Fylde Coast at the weekend. Port Vale meanwhile could hand a debut to former Rovers striker Theo Robinson, signed on the eve of the game from Scottish Premiership side Motherwell.
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