Doncaster proud of rising to same level as Leeds

DONCASTER Rovers will walk away with pride today – win, lose, or draw against Leeds United at Elland Road.

Manager Sean O’Driscoll says his club have succeeded simply by pulling level in the English football pyramid with their famous Yorkshire neighbours.

Only 10 years ago, the gulf between the clubs stretched from the Conference to the last four of the European Cup. Today, there are just 12 points between the two in the Championship.

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“We will never be as big as Leeds so it is pointless saying it,” admitted O’Driscoll. “But we can be as passionate, professional and organised and, hopefully, just as competitive.

“If it was all about the ‘big’ clubs, English football would be totally different and we don’t really want that,” he added.

“It is special to have a club you can support in your home town and who you can support against the bigger teams. Regardless of the result, that gives Doncaster people a great deal of pride.”

Today’s game marks only the second time in 56 years that Rovers have visited Elland Road and their last visit in January, 2008 ended in a 1-0 victory thanks to a goal from Brian Stock.

After a return of just six points from 33, Rovers were boosted by a midweek victory at Derby.

However, O’Driscoll’s squad has been ravaged by injuries for several weeks with up to 14 players unavailable.

Goalkeeper Ben Alnwick was added to the squad yesterday after joining the club on a month’s loan from Tottenham Hotspur.

Alnwick, who spent a month on loan with Leeds earlier this season, will provide competition for Gary Woods in the absence of injured first-choice Neil Sullivan.

O’Driscoll is also trying to secure the services of a new striker on loan as leading marksman Billy Sharp has been playing with a hernia problem and Jason Euell, on loan from Blackpool, has been ruled out with a knee injury.

Sharp, a former target for Leeds, is keen to play on through the pain barrier but O’Driscoll thinks it unlikely that the former Sheffield United striker will be able to last until the summer without surgery.

“Everyone has their fingers crossed,” said O’Driscoll. “He doesn’t really want to stop and have an operation that keeps him out for three to four weeks and we don’t want his problem to get any worse.

“If we can get him through to the international break (March 26), we may have the option to do something and not feel this miss as much. We keep telling him ‘if you are struggling, please tell us and come off’ but he never does. If we bring him off when he doesn’t want, there is going to be a bit of a tantrum – but I’m doing it so he can play a few more games.”

O’Driscoll feels it is only a matter of time before Leeds win promotion back to the Premier League and is a huge admirer of midfielder Neil Kilkenny – the Australian international who rejected Rovers to join Leeds from Oldham Athletic three years ago.

“We have always liked Neil and, unfortunately, we couldn’t quite get him,” said the Rovers manager. “Every time he is out of the side, we always make a cheeky enquiry just in case. He is one of those who wants to grab a game by the scruff of the neck and make his team play.”