THE Leasing.com Trophy – in its various guises – may have had its detractors over the years, but it still has a special place in the hearts of Rotherham United and Doncaster Rovers followers.
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Back in April, 1996, a brace of goals from Nigel Jemson saw Rotherham triumph in the competition, then known as the Auto Windscreens Shield, in front of over 20,000 ecstatic Millers fans at Shrewsbury Town’s expense at Wembley.
Eleven years later, Rovers had their moment when they beat Bristol Rovers 3-2 in a see-saw Johnstone’s Paint Trophy showpiece at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, watched by a crowd of almost 60,000.
After a league meeting almost exactly a month to the day, these two neighbours resume their rivalry this evening and while both managers will adopt a pragmatic approach to selection, it will be a big game for a number of players on view.
Demoted to the bench for the thumping weekend win over Coventry, club record signing Freddie Ladapo and Carlton Morris are likely to be given a chance to impress for the hosts, alongside French winger Julien Lamy.
I will put as strong a team out as I can and up some minutes on some who need to play.Rotherham United head coach, Paul Warne
The 19-year-old, who suffered a bad leg injury in the opening pre-season game of the summer, is poised for his long-awaited debut for United.
The game comes too soon for Rovers striking pair Niall Ennis and Kazaiah Sterling, but visiting supporters could get their first competitive glimpse of former Derby County trainee Kwame Thomas, who has joined the club on a short-term deal until January.
On his attitude to selection, Millers chief Paul Warne said: “I will put as strong a team out as I can and up some minutes on some who need to play.
“I would like to think that Julien will definitely get on the pitch and Freddie and Carlton are chomping at the bit; the same as Shaun MacDonald. So I have got some really good senior professionals who definitely need some game-time and want to play.
“I will shuffle my pack and I will give opportunities to other people to play and impress and show why they should be in the team.”
Victory tonight on just their second-ever visit to the AESSEAL New York Stadium would see Rovers qualify for the next stage and provide the perfect follow-up to last month’s eye-catching 3-1 win against another local rival in this competition in Lincoln City.
Not that Rovers manager Darren Moore is expecting anything like a straightforward night against a Millers side whose players and management squad held a lengthy post-mortem into the 2-1 defeat at Doncaster in the away dressing room at the Keepmoat Stadium on September 7.
Moore said: “We have that opportunity of winning the game and getting through to the next stage, but we know that to win it, we’ll have to be at our very best.
“They have got some good players who are finding their feet a little bit. But they are starting to settle down and it will be another hotly-contested battle.”
On a possible debut for Thomas, he added: “He has been with us for a good few weeks now and understands how we work and the group dynamics and his role and responsibilities.
“He is a different player to what we have got up there (up front) and gives us a different option. We are pleased to have him available.”
Moore also confirmed that Donervon Daniels will not join up with Montserrat following his international call-up as he focuses on building up his match fitness with Rovers.