DONCASTER ROVERS manager Paul Dickov has challenged his side to become history boys at the expense of Yorkshire rivals Leeds United this afternoon – and display their big-game credentials once more.
Leeds make the short trip down the A1 boasting a fine record in Doncaster as they put their unbeaten five-match record at the Keepmoat Stadium on the line.
All told, United have won their last three fixtures at the venue and have tasted success on four of their five visits.
In 12 league and cup matches against Leeds in Doncaster, Rovers have won just twice and you have to go back 62 years to their last success, a 2-0 victory at Belle Vue in the old second division in August 1951.
Rovers have shown their derby aptitude already this term, however, with gritty draws at Huddersfield and Barnsley and an impressive victory at Sheffield Wednesday, thanks to a goal from loan player Federico Macheda.
Several of the bigger Championship sides have also floundered at the Keepmoat Stadium in the league this term, with Rovers having cast aside their lowly status to beat automatic promotion candidates Leicester and QPR and draw with Nottingham Forest.
Doncaster, whose captain Richie Wellens this week spoke about Leeds being the team they love to beat, are aiming to prosper again in front of expectant home supporters, whose number will include ex-chairman John Ryan, making his first return to the Keepmoat after dramatically stepping down last month.
Dickov, who has handed Rovers a derby fillip by pledging his future to the club in the wake of speculation linking him with managerless Sheffield Wednesday, said: “It’s a fantastic game for us, especially on the back of a poor defeat last week.
“We want to go out as we have done against the likes of QPR and Leicester and Forest and try and take the game to them. While being mindful that they (Leeds) are a good team as well.”
Questioned on Rovers’ failure to record a Keepmoat victory over Leeds, who secured a comfortable 3-1 triumph in the Capital One Cup in late August, he added: “(The word should be) Yet. The players, staff, and fans alike react to these sort of teams coming here. There has been a fantastic atmosphere in some big games here and the performances have been really good.
“Saturday is not about sitting back, but trying to win the game. We’ve proven already we can do that but, also, you can’t go too gung-ho as they have players in their team who can hurt you.”
On the cusp of the top six, the clash with Rovers is the first leg of a South Yorkshire double-header for United, who host Barnsley next weekend.
Brian McDermott’s side head into the game with an encouraging return of four wins in their last six league encounters, but in the bigger picture of the whole season, United’s away results represent an area in need of improvement if they are to sustain their challenge for the top six.
Leeds have won just once on the road in their last seven outings in all competitions, losing six and with three of their next four games being on their travels, Whites supporters will be hoping the situation starts to remedy itself, mindful of how their away form curtailed their play-off drive this time last year.
Not that McDermott is overly anxious, having largely been pleased by their performances away from Elland Road.
The former Reading manager, who never lost to Rovers during his time as Royals boss, said: “Of all the away games we had, we were well beaten by Millwall and Derby.
“Apart from that, we’ve been in each and every game away from home and at home. We’re competitive.
“Against Watford last week, we were 2-0 down after they had three shots and two breakaway goals. In the second half we played really, really well and we should have won it.
“It was a fantastic game and sometimes you lose track of that. It’s about winning, of course it is, but sometimes we all need to say it was a privilege to be involved in such a fantastic game.
“Now we’re going to have a side in Doncaster who will work really hard. It’s a derby game too. We’ll be ready.”
McDermott, who saw loan striker Dexter Blackstock return to Nottingham Forest at the start of the week, with his knee injury sidelining him for the rest of the season, says he intends to speak with board members shortly regarding his January transfer targets. A new forward is likely to remain high on his list of priorities.
The New Year window has proved something of a disappointing damp squib for United in the past few years, but with a proposed second takeover in the space of a year by a consortium led by United managing director David Haigh now awaiting Football League approval – it could be a more significant and positive event this time around.
Owners GFH Capital have granted the consortium – who will buy a 75 per cent stake in the club – if the deal goes through a period of exclusivity ahead of the January window with supporters anxiously awaiting developments.
McDermott, also mindful that many fans are deeply worried about the forward back-up at his disposal if the club suffer an injury to 16-goal top-scorer Ross McCormack, said: “I’ve got a couple of ideas of what I’d like to do in January and I’ll put them to the board.
“I don’t feel vulnerable, I’ve got a lot of numbers for that (forward) area and we’ve got players who are scoring goals. Ross is scoring every time he plays. We’ve got a good group here.”