Blackburn v Doncaster – Balcombe has big gloves to fill as he prepares for debut

Their relationship is days old, but already Ellery Balcombe and Doncaster Rovers feel like a good fit.

FIRST TIMER:: Ellery Balcombe could make his Doncaster Rovers debut today after joining from Brentford. Picture: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

This afternoon at Ewood Park the latest in a line of promising young goalkeepers will make their Doncaster debut – probably – in the FA Cup third round.

Of course Darren Moore, the master of the loan deal, did his homework, identifying the 21-year-old Brentford player in the summer and bringing him in now after Josef Bursik, the man he plumped for then, was called back to Stoke City. But it worked both ways.

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“It’s a massive opportunity for me, especially when I haven’t played in League One yet and I’m developing my career,” says Balcombe. “It’s a good challenge for me, a good opportunity and I love the manager, I love what Darren Moore’s doing with the club and how they play.

IMPRESSIVE: Doncaster Rovers manager Darren Moore. Picture: Tony Johnson.

“I wanted to find a club that liked to play through the goalkeeper. That’s definitely something I like to see when there’s a possibility of going to a club because it fits to the way I play.”

The Keepmoat Stadium has been a good platform for goalkeepers under Moore. Seny Dieng impressed sufficiently last season to be the first choice goalkeeper at Championship Queens Park Rangers on his return. When an injury crisis caused Stoke to bring back Bursik in November, Joe Lumley came in on a week-to-week emergency basis but did so well the Rs wanted him back.

As a fellow product of England’s youth set-up at St George’s Park, Balcombe knows Bursik and picked his brain. He makes no bones about the fact he is here to advance his Brentford career having recently signed a new contract.

“When you see these guys doing well after a great loan at Doncaster it just gives you that motivation to get playing,” he says ahead of the trip to Championship Blackburn Rovers.

“That’s always at the back of my mind, if I do well, if I impress, I’ll get opportunities.

“I spoke to (Bursik) a week ago. I just asked how it was and he had nothing but good words – good people, good coaches and he got opportunities here.

“I’ve been at Brentford since I was seven and all I want to do is play for the club so (the new contract) gives me a good pathway to get into the first team. Hopefully I can get a good few games under my belt and push to be No 1 at Brentford next season.”

The move is a step up for Balcombe, whose previous football has come on loan at Boreham Wood, Danish second division side Viborg, and for Brentford’s B team – a change in approach from Under-23 football being followed by Huddersfield Town.

“Brentford just want me to play as many games as I can and get League One experience of men’s football, do well and impress,” says Balcombe.

“I think there will be quite a big difference (from B-team football). We don’t play in a league. A few loans before that I’ve had league experience but this is League One, men’s football.
From B team to League One, I think there’ll be quite a big difference.

“With the B-team squad there’s a lot of flexibility. We don’t play in the league and we travel the country a lot, even outside Europe – obviously not now with lockdown. It’s a different style to normal (Under--23s) and it’s great to play teams like Bayern (Munich), I’ve really enjoyed it.

“It was different football in Denmark, a different country, different culture and it was good to get playing, I enjoyed it. It was different but I liked the way they played.”

One of the secrets to Moore’s success with academy loanees is he likes to play the modern way, so Balcombe’s ability with the ball at his feet is important.

“He was on the list at the start of the season and was available again so we had no hesitation in terms of making that approach,” says the former defender.

“It should work well for both clubs.

“The big thing for us is to get him settled as quickly as possible and get him integrated into the club and the team and see what the team’s about, the group of players he’s with and the environment he’s joining.

“We’ll work hard with him as we do with all our players.

“It (the ability to play out from the back) is an important component to us and there are very few keeps have all those attributes. First and foremost he’s got to have the fundamental skills a goalkeeper has.

“He’s come in the last few days and been working hard with Paul Gerrard (the goalkeeping coach) and Louis Jones (his deputy).”

Unlike Lumley, Balcombe is not guaranteed his place, so his arrival is good news for Jones, who played at FC United of Manchester in the first round.

The change is nothing to do with ability, just the fact that emergency loans, like Lumley’s, are only allowed if the goalkeeper is guaranteed to play. Just before he arrived, Moore was talking enthusiastically about the competition for places between Bursik and Jones.

“They will compete and contest and carry on as normal now for the remainder of the season,” confirmed Moore.

“Before because it was an emergency loan we were dictated to by the league whereas this is a straight loan until the end of the season.”

Winger Elliot Simoes, signed on loan from Barnsley, is also set to make his Doncaster debut but Moore will have to judge the recoveries of a number of players who only returned to training in the last few days after recovering from Covid-19 when picking his squad. It is not expected to stretch to a full nine-man bench.

The sides met in the League Cup in August’s opening game of the season, when Tony Mowbray’s Blackburn prevailed 3-2.

“You’ve got two teams knocking heads that play the game in an attack-minded way so it bodes well for a great game of football,” says Moore.

“At the start of the season it was quite a closely-fought contest but I think both teams have stepped on the gas since.”

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