by The Rovers Review
Suffering back-to-back defeats for the first time this season, Rovers look to escape that mini dip in form to potentially clench the title in front of the home faithful - as play-off hopefuls, Exeter City visit the Keepmoat Stadium.
After being ruled out for the remainder of the season, striker Andy Williams is set to come back into contention after Gavin Strachan confirmed his availability before stating that Williams has been "sharp" in training all week. He could, however, face competition for a place back in the starting 11, with forwards Alfie May and John Marquis being involved in plenty of goals as of late.
During midweek it was reported that Niall Mason and Craig Alcock had been given the day off training for one day - due to possible injuries - however Strachan has confirmed that as it stands, they are fit for this weekend.
Last time out against Wycombe Wanderer, after Alfie May bagged a breath-taking goal, but was then withdrawn due to an injury within 38 minuets. It was later revealed he was suffering with a dead leg and Strachan has confirmed he'll be available again this weekend against Exeter.
Following Mathieu Baudry's season-ending surgery, Joe Wright is expected to re-kindle his partnership with Andy Butler (much like the beginning of the season). Wright has this week said it's a "big opportunity" for him to make his mark on the team and that he has "respect" for Darren Ferguson's team selection, which has seen the defender only make 18 appearances so far this season.
Out of Exeter's last five games they've won 3 and lost 2, whereas Rovers have lost 3, drawn 1 and won 1.
With 48 points collected at the Keepmoat so far this season from 22 games, they have the best home record in the league, however it may be under threat this weekend as they host an Exeter City who have the second-best away record in the league (behind Plymouth), collecting 39 points from 22 games on the road.
Players to watch
Award winning youngster Ollie Watkins is their player to watch, with him picking up 13 league goals so far this season as well as picking up 6 assists, all while being just 21-years-old.
However, he isn't their top goal scorer or assists man with midfielders; David Wheeler has netted 16 league goals and Jack Stacey has 7 assists so far this term.
In the reverse fixture Rovers came from a goal behind to win 3-1 at St James Park, with Liam Mandeville making an instant impact from the bench to equalise for Rovers, followed by a Marquis double to earn Rovers the 3 points. The last time Exeter came to Doncaster was back in the Belle Vue days during the season 1997/98, where Exeter won 1-0 in front of a crowd of 1,186.
Overall, Rovers have won 23, drawn 5 and lost 18 against Exeter since 1959. Safe to say it'd be surprising if it's a draw this weekend!
Predicted lineup v Exeter City
Lawlor; Alcock, Wright, Butler, Mason; Grant, Blair, Rowe, Coppinger; May and Marquis.
by The Rovers Review
Rovers will be strengthened ahead of their penultimate away game of the season with several injured players returning, against Wycombe Wanderers.
A mini injury crisis hit Rovers during the Easter period, seeing key figures to the Rovers team miss two games through injuries, but now they could be set for a return for the final three games. Players, such as James Coppinger, Andy Butler, Luke McCullough and Liam Mandeville all come back into contention for the 18 on Saturday.
Striker Andy Williams is a "big doubt" for this weekend's game and the following weekend game against Exeter City, which could mean his season is potentially over.
Meanwhile first choice goalkeeper Ian Lawlor, who has been out with chest problems, has "got a chance" of returning, but there still seems to be a bit of an uncertainty around whether or not he'll be 100% ready for this match. Defender Mathieu Baudry was expected to miss the rest of the season after being booked in for an operation since Rovers secured promotion back to league one, but Ferguson has said that they, "may delay it a week - we'll wait and see." Which will certainly give him a selection headache in regards of who to chose at the back. Should it be the centre-back pairing that it has been for most of the season with Andy Butler and Mathieu Baudry, or does Joe Wright come into contention after his man of the match performance against Blackpool on bank holiday Monday?
Winger, Matty Blair will be set to miss his first game for Rovers this season through suspension, after picking up a red card v Blackpool in the previous game.
Ahead of the match, Darren Ferguson has also said there is "decent experience in the team", from the likes of veteran, James Coppinger, which can see Rovers really challenge for the title in these final three games.
Wycombe have failed to win in their previous four home games against: Mansfield, Cheltenham, Notts County and Plymouth, respectively, with them drawing two and losing two. On the other hand, Rovers haven't lost on the road in their last four games with them drawing two, but winning two as well.
Players to watch
Former Rovers striker, Adebayo Akinfenwa has scored 17 goals this season for the Chairboys, and will be their main attacking threat with 11 of them 17 goals coming in the league. He's closely following by Scott Kashket on 9 league goals.
Defender, Joe Jacobson is their main assist creator, with him being involved in the build-up of 8 league goals this season for Wycombe.
Previously this season Rovers drew 2-2 with Wycombe at the Keepmoat with Ferguson saying it was 'individual mistakes', which cost Doncaster 3 points that day.
Ironically the last time Rovers visited Adams Park it finished 2-2 back in October 2006 during the League Cup 3rd round. Rovers were consequently knocked out by losing 3-2 on penalties after extra time.
Overall, Rovers have failed to beat Wycombe in their last four encounters since 1993.
Predicted lineup v Wycombe Wanderers
Lawlor; Alcock, Baudry, Wright, Taylor-Sinclair; Mason, Grant, Rowe, Coppinger; May and Marquis.
by Paul Williams
Having lost at Bloomfield Road earlier this season (missing yet another penalty in the process) and been knocked out of the much-maligned Checkatrade Trade Trophy at the Keepmoat, Rovers will hopefully feel they have unfinished business with Blackpool this Bank Holiday Monday.
The Tangerines are consistent in their inconsistency but are a dangerous side when putting it all together. They put a significant nail in Rovers' relegation coffin at the same stage of last season and have been a bit of a bogey side for the red and white hoops lately. With a play-off place still in touching distance, Gary Bowyer's team will have to come out to play but Rovers are probably a maximum of two wins away from securing the title and will still be feeling the pain of a kick up the collective rear end from Darren Ferguson in Friday's 1-1 draw at Colchester.
The Rovers' boss has promised changes as he feels some players need to recharge their batteries but injuries to James Coppinger, Andy Williams and Ian Lawlor may have restricted his options and Liam Mandeville is still a week away from fitness. Let's hope it's the Rovers team of the second half at Colchester and not the one in the first half that lines-up against the Seasiders.
by The Rovers Review
The title could be in touching distance for Rovers this Easter weekend as they travel to Essex to take on Colchester United.
One main injury concern for Darren Ferguson going into the match and that is James Coppinger, who is still suffering from ankle problems. Gary McSheffrey could continue playing in Coppinger’s role while he’s out, as Ferguson has hinted at rotating the two midfielders around due to their similarities in style of play and age.
Ferguson has also said that he is going to be shuffling the squad around due to some players still carrying knocks at this late stage of the season. One of those possible players could be Niall Mason, who has been carrying a knock for a while, but has still been completing 90 minutes in the past few games. Aaron Taylor-Sinclair could be the one to rotate with him after the Scotsman returned to the starting 18 for the first time since the Burton game last May against Mansfield last weekend.
While on the subject of Niall Mason, Darren Ferguson has said that he’s looking to make this loan deal permanent at the end of the season, because Mason is out of contract with his parent club, Aston Villa. This is also a similar situation for Everton loanee Conor Grant, who said he’d be willing to join should Rovers seal promotion back to league one, which was confirmed last weekend. Ferguson has said he’s going to be sitting down with Grant's agent, after having an offer accepted by Everton.
Good news for Rovers fans in regard to in-form striker John Marquis, who has confirmed pre-match that he is happy and settled in Doncaster and willing to discuss a new deal with the club, with his current deal expiring in the summer of 2018. There has been lots of transfer speculation surrounding the striker, due to him scoring 26 goals so far in the league.
This time last year Rovers faced Colchester away in league one, where Colchester 'burried' Rovers 4-1, leading to Ferguson reaching his boiling-point post-match. So, will there be an element of karma a year later, with Rovers already promoted back to league one?
Colchester do have the best home record in the league (excluding Rovers), which has seen them pick up 41 points at home this season from 20 games, so the Colchester Community Stadium, could be considered a bit of a fortress. Forty of Colchester’s sixty goals this season have come at home too, but Rovers just edge over Colchester with that stat, because 42 of Rovers 81 goals have come on the road, so there could also be a lot of goals in this game too.
Players to watch
The biggest goal-scoring threat from the ‘U’s’ is Chris Porter, who has managed to score 15 league goals this season, and he’ll be looking to break the 20-goal mark with 5 games left to go.
Defender, Brennan Dickenson is their main provider for assists, with him racking up 7 league assists – closely behind him is their top goal scorer, Chris Porter with 6 assists.
In the reverse fixture, during October 2016, it finished in a 1-0 win for Rovers, with Tommy Rowe scoring the only goal during that game.
As mentioned previously, last time we visited the Colchester Community Stadium it finished 4-1 to Colchester, with Gary McSheffrey getting the only consolidating goal for Rovers on that day.
Overall, Rovers have won 22, drawn 7 and lost 18 since 1985. Can they make it 23 wins, to take a step closer to the title?
Predicted lineup v Colchester United
Lawlor; Alcock, Butler, Baudry, Taylor-Sinclair; McCullough, Blair, Rowe, McSheffrey; Williams and Marquis.
by The Rovers Review
Rovers could seal promotion back to League One, at the first time of asking, as they host Steve Evans' Mansfield Town.
Conor Grant and James Coppinger, who missed last weekend's victory through injury, still remain a doubt for this weekend, which could see Gary McSheffrey and Luke McCullough retain their places in the squad after they started their first games this season last weekend at Grimsby.
Ferguson has estimated striker Liam Mandeville to be back just after Easter, in time for the Wycombe Wanderers game. That shouldn't be too much of a problem, however, considering that all three strikers that featured last weekend (Marquis, Williams and May) have all scored during his absence.
After receiving a lot of interest from the press this week regarding his future, Darren Ferguson has said that John Marquis isn't going anywhere and that it would take 'a lot of money', to see him leave the club. He also hinted at the fact that he'll be sitting down with Marquis to get a contract extension during the summer, along with a few other players too.
Ferguson has also again this week emphasized the ambition to win the league after stating that he wants this to be the first time he wins a league (previously he has got promotion through the divisions either by being runners up or through the play-offs). He believes - contrary to Derek Adams thoughts - that the title race isn't over yet with 6 games to go and a 6 point gap separating Rovers and Plymouth.
As for the opposition, Ferguson has said that they're going to be a team that will have the most pace out of any team Rovers have faced this season, so that could be a test in itself for the Vikings. Ferguson also said that Steve Evans will have his team working hard for him, which could suggest it's going to be a game where Rovers need to remain concentrated for the full 90 minutes.
Mansfield have a better defensive record than Rovers in the league, because they've only conceded 45 goals in 40 games, whereas Rovers have conceded 46 in just as many - so it's only fine margins separating the two sides.
The Stags have been averaging 1.45 points per game so far this season, however Rovers are sticking to their target that Darren Ferguson has set them, to average two points a game, and so far they're exceeding that.
Players to watch
Striker, Matt Green, is their player to watch because he's managed to get 10 goals in league two so far this season.
New striker Shaquile Coulthirst is their main threat for assists, picking up 5 assists since he joined the Stag's in January this year.
The last time we faced Mansfield it was New Year's Eve, which saw Rovers draw 1-1 with the Stags; the Rovers goal coming from Liam Mandeville.
This will be the first time Mansfield visit the Keepmoat; the last time we faced them in Doncaster was during the FA Cup 2nd round replay in December 2006 at Belle Vue, which saw Rovers win 2-0 with goals from: Mark McCammon and Paul Heffernan.
Overall, Rovers have won 20, drawn, 17 and lost 30 since 1932 against Mansfield.
Predicted lineup v Mansfield Town
Lawlor; Alcock, Butler, Baudry, Mason; McCullough, Blair, Rowe, McSheffrey; Marquis and Williams.