Tranmere Rovers vs. Doncaster Rovers match preview

Gareth Roberts returns to Prenton Park for the first time since leaving in Summer, but for once will not be hoping for a win
Should the game go ahead on Saturday, Tranmere Rovers, badly in need of a win, will be playing an in form Doncaster Rovers side for the first time since The Vikings moved to their new Keepmoat Stadium.

A win for either team would put them three points clear of their opponents in the League One table, with Rovers and Doncaster seperated in eight and ninth place by goal difference.

Team Profile:

Formed: 1879

Ground: Keepmoat Stadium

Manager: Sean O'Driscoll

Nickname: Rovers

Season Finish 2005/06: 8th (Coca-Cola League One)

Previous Meetings:

Earlier this season when Tranmere travelled to Doncaster's Belle Vue for the final time the game ended in a dull 0-0 draw.

Just Rovers second away game of the season following a 1-0 defeat to Cheltenham four days earlier, Ronnie Moore and his side were looking their first away point of the season and got it as Doncaster, with three ex-Tranmere players in their 16, failed to beat Gavin Ward.

Vital Stats:

Tranmere haven't beaten Doncaster at Prenton Park since the Yorkshire club returned to the Football League

Rovers have only beaten The Vikings 17 times in 67 attempts

Rovers have scored just four goals in their last six games against Doncaster

In 63 league meetings, the two sides have never met outside of the third or fourth division

In the 11 games Tranmere have played on February 10th, there have been 31 goals

The Form Book:

Tranmere last 6 home games: DWDWLL
Doncaster last 6 away games: DWLWWW

Doncaster have been in superb form this season after appointing former Bournemouth boss Sean O'Drisscoll as manager following the sacking of Dave Penny earlier this season.

In their last six games on the road, Doncaster have won four times, including two cup matches and also won four of their last six on the road in the league.

Most recently on the road, Donny drew 3-3 with Crewe Alexandra in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy Northern Section Final (now that's a long title!) and previous to that they travelled to Priestfield and beat Gillingham 2-0, a ground where Rovers lost 2-0 just two weeks ago.

Their most recent defeat away from home came to Blackpool in the game before the Gillingham win, as they lost 3-1 at Bloomfield Road to Blackpool following a 1-0 win against Bradford over Christmas.

The goals conceeded against Blackpool were indeed their first in three on the road, as before this they had beaten Brentford 4-0 and Northampton 2-0 to go with the Bradford win.

Other noteable results on the road this season for Doncaster include a 1-0 win at Ashton Gate against Bristol City, a 2-1 win at Port Vale and a 3-3 draw at Pride Park against Championship side Derby County in the League Cup.

For Rovers it has been a tough ride at home since the start of December, with two wins, two draws and two defeats coming in the league and cup.

On December 2, Tranmere lost 2-1 to Peterborough before then losing 3-2 to Gillingham after leading 2-0 with just five minutes gone.

Since they have gone undefeated at home, but results need to pick up, with victories against Rotherham (2-1) and Crewe (1-0) to go with 1-1 draws against Northampton Town and Bradford City.

Other noteable results for Rovers at home this season see them having defeated Blackpool (2-0), Oldham Athletic (1-0) and an in form Millwall (3-1).

Double Hit:

Currently there are three players on the books at Doncaster Rovers who have played for Tranmere, in Sean Thornton (the less said about him the better), Jason Price and the legend Gareth Roberts, it is he who we will discuss today.

Roberts started his career at Liverpool, in the same youth team as Andy Parkinson, Michael Owen and Steve Gerrard, but failed to make an impression on Roy Evans or Gerrard Houllier whilst at Anfield and in 1999 he left for Greece and Panionios on a free-transfer.

Roberts again failed to make an impression at Panionios and after failing to make an appearance in Greece he moved back to Merseyside and Tranmere thanks to a recommendation from John Toshack to John Aldridge on a three month load deal.

It was at Tranmere where the little left-back's career got going as he made 12 appearances in his loan spell with Rovers before making the move permanent on November 8th and stayed at Tranmere until 2006.

Roberts was a consistent performer for Tranmere under four managers, Aldridge, Watson, Mathias and Little, as he played at left-back and left-midfield at times.

Whilst at Tranmere, Roberts became a firm fans favourite for his 110% effort, stunning free-kicks which he produced every now and again and his all round brilliant game.

He went on to make 337 appearances for Tranmere in all competitions in seven seasons at Prenton Park and in the process managed to reach the League Cup final on one occassion (2000), the F.A. Cup Quarter Finals on three occassions (2000, 2001 and 2004) and the play-off semi-finals once (2005).

He also scored 14 goals, including one stunning 35 yard free-kick away at Chesterfield in the 2005/06 season which went into the top corner and a 20-yard volley away at Wrexham in the 2004/05 season.

Since joining Doncaster this summer, Roberts has made 22 league appearances (two as substitute) and eight cup appearances for the Vikings without scoring.

On New Years day in the first match at the Keepmoat Stadium, Roberts got his first sending off since February 5th 2005 when he jumped on a Huddersfield player in Doncaster's 3-0 win.

One To Watch:

Doncaster's leading scorer and main threat this season has been striker Paul Heffernan who has scored 16 goals in 36 appearances (11 as substitute) this season, including four in his last three games.

Heffernan started his career with Newtown and signed for Notts County in 1999 where he remained until 2004, making 114 appearances and scoring 37 goals before moving onto Bristol City for £125,000 in June 2004 where he stayed for 12 months.

Whilst at Ashton Gate, Heffernan made just 31 appearances, with just 13 starts and scoring just seven goals.

However, Heffernan did enough to convince Doncaster to make a move for him and on June 29th 2005 he signed for the Yorkshire club for £125,000.

Since moving to Doncaster, Heffernan has scored 31 goals in 70 appearances and at the age of 26 he is set to score a lot more goals in the remainder of his career.

Heffernan is an accurate finisher with a good heading ability and a quick turn of pace. He wears the number 14 shirt for Doncaster.

Team News:

Rovers are expected to drop Gavin Ward following his howler which cost Rovers the game against Oldham, with John Achterberg expecting a re-call whilst Jason McAteer or Danny Harrison could play after a poor performance by the Rovers midfield in the same game.
With Steve Davies picking up his fifth yellow card of the season at Boundary Park, either Kevin Ellison will start in midfield or Chris Shuker will move over to the left wing with John Thompson pushing upto right-midfield.
Moore is also without defenders Shane Sherriff and Ian Goodison so Carl Tremarco will once again start at left-back.

Jones' Prediction: Tranmere 0-2 Doncaster