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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Doncaster Preview

This is clearly the time of the season when the primitive survival instincts kick in so to speak. When at long last the players, of all teams, start to realise that unless they pull their socks up they're gonna get relegated and maybe looking for a new job.
It happened last season as well. Preston sitting in the third from bottom slot with a meagre 33 points from 32 games suddenly woke up and got 23 points in the remaining 14 games. Sheffield Wednesday was another one. Fourth from bottom after 32 games on 35 points they accelerated away with 20 points in the last 14 games. All this meant that Leicester's fairly good haul of 18 points in the same 14 game period wasn't enough and they went down on 52 points!
And unfortunately for us the same thing is happening this year with Saturdays astonishing treble of the previously struggling trio of Plymouth, Forest and Southampton all winning 1-0 games against the cream of Wolves, Reading and Cardiff and making our solitary hard-earned point at Swansea look pretty dismal in comparison.
Of course, our next opponents, Doncaster Rovers, have woken up a long time ago. It's maybe a struggle to understand what sort of spirit they put into the Christmas pudding up in Doncaster but whatever it is its had a profound effect on the form of the local football club. There they were on Christmas Day rock bottom of the fizzies with only 4 wins from 24 games and only 16 points ( and only 11 goals, scored at never more than one a game). And as they travelled down the motorway to Nottingham on Boxing Day game they were also definitely headed back to League One with a pig-headed determination only understood in Yorkshire.
Amazingly, they scored four goals that day - a figure that would normally have taken them 8 games - and no less than three in the first 45 minutes to sink Forest 4-2.
And they haven't looked back since that day because over the next 4 weeks they dispensed with Burnley 2-1 (h), Southampton 1-0 (a) and than a 1-0 win at Bramall Lane to win four in a row and jump out of the bottom three. In fact, since that extra helping of invigorating Christmas pudd, they have suddenly become world beaters with 8 wins out of 10 and a total of 18 goals in the last 10 games.
And after their 2-1 comeback win at home to Derby last friday they now sit very comfortably in a midtable 15th place with no less than 9 teams below them, a situation that looked laughable before Christmas. And I know because I was doing the laughing when a Rovers mate told me back then how unlucky they were..
But this upward motion may be one point in our favour as they hopefully approach the time when midtable sides tend to take their foot off the pedal and lose concentration and relax a bit.
On the other hand it must be said that, although they are still the lowest scoring team in the fizzies with 29 goals, they have scored in every one of their last 10 fizzies.
Current Form Its the time in the season when the leading clubs start getting nervous and the bums all start fighting for their lives so the current form table is currently being turned upside down with top teams like Wolves and Brum on the same number of wins in the last 8 games as the Addicks. And while we can take some comfort as the Addicks rise to 18th in the current-form table with 8 points from our last 8 and remain unbeaten in three, you have to blink to see that todays opponents Doncaster have now enjoyed 6 wins in the last 8 (equal in their points haul of 19 with the best of all, Bristol) and with only 2 defeats ( to Swansea and Aston Villa in the Cup) in their last 14 games.
DangerMan Top striker is number 14 Paul Hefferman on 7 goals in all competions while midfielder Brain Stock is also on 7 with three of them penaties.
What's Their Secret? Not a second half team and like the Swans if they are losing at half-time they never win. And not so hot at the end of games either where they have conceded 11 goals in the last ten minutes of games and have scored only one.
History There's only been two games between us at the Valley, and Doncaster are another team from Yorkshire looking for their first Valley win. The two games played so far have given us a 2-0 win in 1957 and another 3-0 win pre-war. Overall its 3-1 in our favour and of course we have the chance of our first double of the season after our 1-0 back in September at the Keepmoat that does seem a long way away now.

Team News
Just when it seemed that we were getting a settled defence to build on, injury-prone Graeme Murty departs the scene and is immediately replaced by a Palarse full-back. The 29 year old Danny Butterfield has apparently played 30 times this season for Sainburys including turning out at the Valley in January. Whether he goes straight into the team is not clear but he's certainly fit as he's featured in Palarse's last 4 games although mainly as a sub and in midfield at that. The only other option, unless Matty Holland tells us he used to play full-back back in his youth days, is Moutaouakil who can't be called Parky's favorite as he's only played in 5 out of the nineteen games of Parky reign so expect Butterfield to step in.

Elloit; Butterfield, Ward, Hudson, Youga; Soares, Racon, Spring, Bailey; Kandol, Dickson.
Subs: Randolph, Holland, Shelvey, Sam, Ambrose

Summary So as the gap to safety grows to Grand Canyon proportions and becomes a chasm of 10 points (but with a game in hand), we just can't afford to leave the escape act any longer and this game is as near a must-win Cup Final for the Addicks as an appearance at Wembley. And what Parky plans to tell the players before the game may well decide the outcome as we all know that building up pressure is not always good for a player. This game will therefore need players that can perform under that pressure and that may well decide his starting eleven as the fans will be expecting another three points after our successes over Palarse and Plymouth.

And although Wyn sees the next four games as deciding our near future I can't help thinking that this game is crucial to the Addicks. We need a win.

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