PREVIEW: Doncaster Rovers v Luton Town
Doncaster Rovers have made a fine start to the League One campaign after seeing their pre-season plans rocked by the departure of boss Darren Ferguson in June.
The former Peterborough manager had been frustrated by conversations with the club’s hierarchy as in a statement on the League Managers’ Association website, he said the decision had been made ‘after recent discussions with the board.’
Ferguson went on to add: “I’m disappointed to have made this decision as I was looking forward to the new season, but I felt I had no alternative.”
Rovers wasted little time in appointing a replacement, as Grant McCann joined on June 27, with chairman David Blunt saying: “He is one of the most promising young coaches in football, which was shown in his time at Peterborough.”
McCann made the perfect start to life at the Keepmoat Stadium, with three wins from three, 3-2 at Southend on the opening day, seeing off Wycombe 3-0 and then a 2-1 Carabao Cup triumph at Scunthorpe.
They haven’t enjoyed that winning feeling since though, losing at Burton, before successive home stalemates with Shrewsbury and Portsmouth, going out of the cup to Blackpool as well.
However, they were the first team to stop Peterborough winning in the league, drawing 1-1 draw at the ABAX Stadium last weekend, although were surprisingly beaten 3-1 at home by Newcastle U21s in the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday night.
Despite sitting in seventh place, McCann knows it could be even better, telling the club’s official website: “We need to start being ruthless and we have to make sure that we turn our dominance into results and that we punish teams.
“That’s how you win football games, the performance levels have been good and if we keep it up, those results will come.
“I believe that we’re three points off where we should be at this stage.
“We had a chat as a group before we started about the first 12 games and about where we should be after that, so luckily we’ve got six games to get back on track and I’m sure we will.”
McCann’s arrival didn’t lead to a huge turnaround in playing personnel, Ali Crawford and Paul Taylor joining from Hamilton and Bradford, loan incomings consisting of Mallik Wilks (Leeds), Herbie Kane (Liverpool), Peterborough’s Jermaine Anderson and Tom Anderson from Burnley.
There were only a few outgoings too, Mathieu Baudry to MK Dons, plus Tyler Garrett and Liam Mandeville, borrowed by AFC Wimbledon and Morecambe respectively.
Team news: Luton are almost at full strength, with Danny Hylton back in contention, while Eunan O’Kane and Jorge Grant showed no reaction to their injuries on Tuesday night.
Marek Stech needs a hernia operation but is expected to be on the bench, although Luke Berry is out.
For Rovers, skipper Tommy Rowe is a huge doubt after going off with a hamstring injury in midweek.
Top scorers: Hatters - Danny Hylton, Matty Pearson (2). Rovers - James Marquis (4).
Man in the middle: Tom Nield - official has taken seven games this season, showing 18 yellow cards and one red.
Refereed Luton twice last term, the 0-0 draw at Lincoln and 4-0 defeat to Port Vale in December.
In charge: Grant McCann – 38-year-old, who began his playing career with West Ham, before spells at Livingston and Notts County, becoming Cheltenham Town’s then record signing for £50,000 in January 2003.
Transferred to Barnsley for £100,000 in January 2007, while joined Scunthorpe, moving to Peterborough in May 2010, playing almost 200 games, until finishing his career with Linfield.
Headed back to Posh in a coaching capacity in February 2015 and was appointed first team manager in May 2016, sacked after no wins in seven matches during February 2018.
The former Northern Ireland international, who won 39 caps, was then named Doncaster boss in June.
View from the opposition: Grant McCann talking to the Rovers’ official website - “Luton will provide a tough test for us I’m sure.
“I have a lot of respect and admiration for Nathan Jones and the work that he has done there in getting them promoted, so we have to make sure we’re on it.
“They play the game in the right way, Nathan coaches them in the right way, his side have been a pleasure to watch at times.
“I watched them a lot when I was out of the game for a little bit and they were superb last year.
“We know that we’ll be in for a strong test. They’ve got some great attacking players with goals right through the team, but so have we and we have to make sure that once we defend that we take our chances at the other end and I’m sure we will.”
Played for both: Centre half Wayne Thomas joined Doncaster on a free transfer from Southampton in August 2010, after Saints had shelled out £1m for his services three years earlier.
He played 21 times for Rovers in the Championship, then heading to Atromitos and Veroia in Greece, until Luton snapped him up in February 2013 under former boss Paul Buckle.
Made his Luton debut in a 3-2 defeat at home to Mansfield and was then sent off after 34 minutes of a 2-0 reverse at Braintree, before he was loaned to Rochdale, soon departing Kenilworth Road for spells with Tamworth, Worcester City, Kidderminster and Altrincham.
Recently left Worcester to take a job in a West Bromwich Albion soccer school in China.
One to watch: John Marquis. Hard really to look past the 26-year-old striker as Doncaster’s go-to man for goals, as he has netted four times already this season, including two in his last two games.
Lethal as Doncaster went up from League Two, scoring 26 goals and managed 15 last term.
Started out a Millwall, with loans at Portsmouth, Torquay, Northampton, Cheltenham, Gillingham and Leyton Orient earlier his career, until snapped up by Rovers on a free transfer.
We’ve got form: Hatters haven’t left Doncaster with that winning feeling for almost 65 years, their last victory coming back in April 1955 when Peter MacEwan (2) and Jim Pemberton were on target in a 3-1 Division Two triumph.
In fairness, they have only played six times since then, drawing three and losing three matches.
It puts Town’s overall record since 1947 as three wins, four draws and five defeats from 12 visits, scoring 16 and conceding 19, although five of those came in a 5-2 defeat back in 1951.
Last time out: Luton were held to a 1-1 draw on their last visit to the Keepmoat Stadium in League Two during the 2016-17 season.
Jordan Cook had put the visitors in front with a fine finish on 67 minutes, only for Alfie May to come off the bench and equalise for Rovers with 10 to go.
Hatters: Matt Macey, Stephen O’Donnell, Jack Senior, Scott Cuthbert, Alan Sheehan, Glen Rea, Jonathan Smith, Jordan Cook (Luke Gambin 87), Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Danny Hylton, Isaac Vassell (Ollie Palmer 76).
Subs not used: Stuart Moore, James Justin, Olly Lee, Lawson D’Ath, Jack Mrriott.
Referee: Darren Deadman.