Doncaster v Huddersfield: Apologetic Sharp can play vital role in bid for safety

Brighton's Gordon Greer (left) challenges Doncaster Rovers's Billy Sharp
Brighton's Gordon Greer (left) challenges Doncaster Rovers's Billy Sharp
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Billy Sharp returns from suspension today admitting he has a debt to pay to Doncaster Rovers.

The on-loan striker was sent off in the 1-0 defeat against Brighton on February 8, incurring a three-match ban which has seen him sidelined for a month.

In that time, the 28-year-old has watched Rovers slide towards the Championship relegation zone after back-to-back defeats at Yeovil and Bournemouth.

Sharp is eager to atone for his red card, starting today when Rovers host Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town at the Keepmoat Stadium.

“It’s been frustrating these last few weeks, but it was my own fault,” said Sheffield-born Sharp. “Even though it was a soft red card – I don’t think it was a sending-off – it has been frustrating, especially being three Saturdays on the trot.

“I let my team-mates down and hopefully I can get back in the team and put it right.

“I had not played for a bit (at parent club Southampton), then had three games in a week when I came to Doncaster and that was tough.

“I got sent off the weekend after, had three weekends off, now I can return and I have three games in a week again. It’s going to be tough.”

A 5-0 defeat to Bournemouth last week – Doncaster have won just twice in their last 17 matches – sees Rovers sitting just three points off the relegation zone.

But Paul Dickov’s team have not lost at home in the league since Boxing Day, and Sharp believes their destiny is still in their own hands with 13 games remaining.

“Last week, we can’t just forget about it, but we need to learn from it and hopefully make sure it doesn’t happen again this season,” said the former Sheffield United striker.

“Against Yeovil we lost 1-0, but the lads tell me a fair result would have been a draw, but things happen like that.

“But as long as we pick up a few wins in our next few games, we will be fine.

“It’s in our own hands, if we win our home games we will be okay. There’s plenty of football left to be played, and there will be more twists and turns along the way. We just have to make sure they go our way.

“We have been in a relegation battle virtually all season. We had a bit of a gap a few weeks ago, but it’s been closed shut again.

“That’s what can happen when you get complacent, think you’ve pulled away from it – you get dragged back down.”

Sharp still has a year remaining on his Southampton contract, but is not looking beyond Rovers’ relegation fight in terms of his own future.

“I am just looking to get back playing football,” said Sharp, who has already netted the winner against Hudddersfield this season while on loan at Reading. “I am enjoying being back at Rovers.

“The gaffer has just told me to get goals and get us out of trouble. I haven’t done that for the last few games, through being suspended, so I just have to make sure I don’t do anything silly like that again.

“I owe the lads and the fans, I let them down as well, so I have a lot to give back to Rovers.”

The Doncaster staff were forced to endure a video replay of their collapse at Bournemouth this week, and with two games at the Keepmoat Stadium in four days – Watford are the visitors on Tuesday night – manager Dickov is demanding a swift response.

Since losing 3-0 at home to Ipswich Town on December 26, Rovers have beaten Wigan and Charlton, while also picking up Championship draws with Millwall, Middlesbrough and Barnsley.

Dickov said: “We need to continue our good home form, we are unbeaten at the Keepmoat since Boxing Day. We need a reaction from last week.

“We have analysed the Bournemouth game, sat down and watched the match again, which wasn’t comfortable watching for some. We pinpointed areas that were really bad and have worked on them this week. I am sure, positive, that we will get a reaction on Saturday.

“There’s a big feeling that the players owe the fans, and we need to get back on track. I am always positive, and last week could have been the kick up the backside that everyone needed.”

Relegation would be costly for Rovers, and Dickov revealed it could leave some players stranded without a club or hit financially.

“We know we are in a relegation battle, I have spelled it out to the players, and there’s a lot at stake,” he said.

“There’s our Championship status, as a club. As individuals, you don’t want a relegation on your CV, some have already had that.

“There’s players that are out of contract in the summer and other clubs do not want to sign players out of contract that have just been relegated.

“There are players under contract next year, who if we do get relegated there is a 50 per cent wage cut in their contract.

“So there’s lots of factors why this is such an important time for everyone, and why I am looking for a reaction.”

Today’s visitors Huddersfield were on the right side of a 5-0 scoreline last week, beating Barnsley, and Dickov is wary of the form of former Bradford City striker Nahki Wells.

“Huddersfield put in a fantastic performance last week against Barnsley,” he said. “They are scoring goals and in Nahki Wells they have a striker who is in form.

“It’s a big game for us, but we have shown when the big teams come to the Keepmoat that we are more than a match for them.

“Our home form recently has been really good, and with two home games coming up we have to go in to them with confidence, believing we can pick up points.”