Doncaster Rovers will come up against a side Tommy Rowe believes are “the best team in the division” at the Keepmoat Stadium today.
Peterborough United have made the perfect start in League One, gaining 12 points from their first four games and smashing home 12 goals in the process.
Rowe, like his manager Darren Ferguson, is no stranger to trail-blazing Posh, both having made their names at London Road.
But sentiment goes out the window today, and Rovers midfielder Rowe is eager to get Doncaster’s season back on track after last weekend’s disappointing 2-0 defeat at AFC Wimbledon.
“I really enjoyed my time at Peterborough,” said Rowe, who spent five years with Posh. “I went there really young and grew a lot as a player, as a person.
“But that goes out the window this weekend. Obviously, I have a lot of respect for the club, but my passion this week is with Doncaster.
“Saturday will be a tough challenge. There’s nothing worse than coming from a defeat to what I think is probably the best team in the division, at the moment.
“They like to score goals, like to attack, and are never afraid to play that way.
“A lot of clubs say it’s suicidal at times, but they have had a lot of success with it.
“We have got to work a way to combat that, and then implement our own game plan.”
Rovers have not been beaten on home turf this season, but have been held to draws by Gillingham and Blackpool.
The eye-catching win at Blackburn Rovers set the standard for Ferguson’s side, and 28-year-old Rowe says Doncaster are eager to bounce back after their no-show at Wimbledon.
“Overall, the start to the season has been very positive,” said the former Manchester United youngster. “If you take last week out of the equation, it’s been a good start.
“We went to AFC Wimbledon to get a win, but it wasn’t to be. Whatever happened on the day, we weren’t good enough.
“Our standards are a lot higher and it didn’t need the gaffer to tell us that; we knew it. You can’t perform like that and expect anything less than a defeat. There are things to learn from, and we have worked on it this week.”
A youthful Rovers side impressed in a 1-1 draw at Grimsby Town in the Football League Trophy on Tuesday night.
Rowe was at Blundell Park to watch his young team-mates, and says the future is bright for Rovers, back in League One after promotion last season.
“The start of the season has been positive, including the Cup form,” he said. “I went to watch the boys on Tuesday night, and thought they were fantastic.
“A young team, playing good football. In an ideal world, you want to be in the top three already, like we were last year, but this league is not going to be that type of season.
“It’s going to be one where we grow as it goes on. Take out last Saturday and I am delighted.”
Doncaster brought in Harry Toffolo and Jordan Houghton – from Norwich City and Chelsea respectively – in loan deals on Thursday’s transfer deadline day to increase competition at the Keepmoat.
Houghton, 21, impressed for Rovers last season before his loan stint was curtailed by a serious knee injury.
But after a couple of reserve games for Chelsea, the midfielder could make a surprise return to first-team action today.
Rowe says Houghton’s return has given the whole club a boost.
“Just having him around is a great lift,” he said. “We don’t know how far he is off full fitness, but he’s a great lad.
“When players come in like that, you sense that feeling around the place that it (the mood) has been lifted.
“Especially after a defeat, it’s good to get some more positive vibes into the club. Hopefully, it will help on Saturday.
“We have some really good midfielders at the club now. That encourages you in training to give your all, then for Saturday, to keep your shirt.
“I have always said I think that competition is the best way to keep a strong side.
“Jordan coming will cause so many problems in terms of selection headaches.
“Ben (Whiteman) has been fantastic for us, and we have got players coming back from injuries, too.”
It means nobody at Doncaster is certain of their place in Ferguson’s starting XI, and Rowe – who worked with the manager at Peterborough – would not have it any other way.
He said: “I think it’s unhealthy if you know you’re definitely starting.
“In training, the gaffer will put different players in different positions, it’s there for us to work out who wants that shirt.
“It’s always been that way. I have worked with the gaffer a long time and he prides himself on if you’re not performing in training, he is not afraid to make changes. It keeps us all on our toes, young and old.
“Collectively, we know where we stand.”
As with Rowe, today will bring back memories for boss Ferguson, who spent two spells as manager of the Posh, which included three promotions and a Football League Trophy title.
But the manager insists there will be no divided loyalties come kick-off.
“This is the longest I’ve been manager of a club after Peterborough, but my club is Doncaster now and after Saturday I hope they do well,” Ferguson said.
“I still live near the area and I’ll still look for their scores. There’s good people there.I had two fantastic spells there, which were both fairly successful for the club, and I do wish them all the best.
“We go up against them on Saturday and they’re in form, they are confident, they have started the season well, but it’s early doors. If we get to the level of performance that I know we can then we can give anyone a game.”