DoNCASTER Rovers’ manager Paul Dickov has hailed tonight’s FA Cup replay at Bristol City as a “massive” opportunity as the South Yorkshire club look to secure their biggest jackpot of the season.
Victory tonight would earn Rovers a home game with either Everton or their Premier League rivals West Ham at the Keepmoat Stadium in a fourth-round fixture already selected for television coverage.
As well as yielding a windfall in excess of £300,000, progression in the competition would also offset the disappointment suffered yesterday when goalkeeper Sam Johnstone was recalled by parent club Manchester United.
United have since sent Johnstone to Preston on loan, with the 21-year-old set to complete a permanent deal at Deepdale in the summer for a fee believed to be around seven figures.
That sum for a League One club emphasises Johnstone’s value to Rovers this season and the size of the blow they have endured.
Due to Football Association rules Dickov cannot sign a replacement and has to throw untested 21-year-old Slovakian goalkeeper Marko Marosi into the fray tonight, which further underlines Rovers’ status as underdogs; Bristol City are League One’s season-long pacesetters.
But Dickov was in no mood to play down his team’s chances yesterday, or the magnitude of what awaits in the fourth round.
If Doncaster win tonight they stand to make up to £315,450 from hosting either Everton or West Ham at the Keepmoat Stadium. They will earn £67,500 from winning the replay and a further £144,000 from the BBC for the televised rights to the fourth round game, which is scheduled for a week on Sunday.
On top of that, they will also take 45 per cent of the net share of the gate receipts. Based on a capacity crowd of 15,000 at the Keepmoat paying an average of £15.40 for a ticket, that would be a top figure of £103,950.
Dickov said: “The FA Cup is a fantastic competition and we’ve got the carrot of getting a Premier League club here at the Keepmoat, but first and foremost, we’ve got to do a good job (tonight).
“There is a little more pressure because of that, but it’s a massive game for lots of reasons.
“We want to keep our run going, I want to give the club and the players national exposure and, obviously, for the financial aspect as well.
“I know from the cup runs I’ve been involved with at Oldham how beneficial it is for lots of reasons, including the feelgood factor around the club.
“And I would hope it benefits me in terms of transfer kitty.
“From speaking with Nigel Clough, the FA Cup was massive for Sheffield United last year, the financial aspect of it as well.
“But we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, it’s going to be a tough game tonight, but it’s a game we want to win and we’ve got to go for it.
“We’ve always wanted to do really well in the competition and it’s a little bit more special now, for the players and fans especially, knowing that there’s going to be a Premier League team and it’s going to be on telly.”
Dickov cites Matt Smith, against whom his players will line up tonight, as an example of what the shop window of a televised FA Cup tie can do for a player.
Smith was in Dickov’s Oldham team which faced Liverpool two years ago, before securing a move to Leeds United, Fulham and then a loan switch to Bristol City, for whom he has scored nine goals in seven starts.
“When I look back on what effect it has on players, I just think of Matt Smith,” added Dickov, who plucked the rangy striker from non-league Solihull Moors.
“He really shot to prominence in the Liverpool game and he’s going to end up as a really good player,” he said.
“Sometimes that one game can make all the difference and I want to give my players that chance.
“Unfortunately Matt has a habit of scoring against us. I just hope that stops (tonight).”
Steve Cotterill’s City won 3-0 at Ashton Gate when the two sides met in League One and have only lost twice at home all season. Rovers, though, are unbeaten in nine on the road with their 4-1-4-1 formation suiting them better away from the Keepmoat.
“We let ourselves down against them earlier this season and we want to make amends,” said Dickov. “We recently went to Swindon who play a similar system and won. We felt we should have beaten Bristol here, so we go down there knowing we can win.”
Dickov hopes to move swiftly to replace Johnstone, with an experienced goalkeeper who has previously won promotion from League One in line to join before Saturday’s derby with Barnsley.
He conceded that losing Johnstone was a “huge blow” and the timing “not ideal” but welcomed the chance to give Marosi – signed from Wigan in the summer and with only one substitute appearance to his name – a chance.
“He can handle the pressure and I have every confidence in the kid,” said Dickov.
The Rovers boss also confirmed his interest in OFI Crete’s Ivorian midfielder Abdul Razak, who was formerly on Manchester City’s books.
Last six games: Bristol City LWWDWW; Doncaster Rovers LWWDDD.
Referee: D Bond (Lancashire).
Last time: Bristol City 3 Doncaster Rovers 0; September 13, 2014; League One.