Big Match Preview: Doncaster Rovers v Stoke City - Good luck omens favour Rovers

Darren Ferguson scores the winner against Middlesborough in the FA Cup
Darren Ferguson scores the winner against Middlesborough in the FA Cup

He has done it before, he is out to do it again – and the omens are pretty good for Darren Ferguson.

A little more than 16 years ago, Ferguson played a key role in a third tier side dumping a Premier League outfit out of the FA Cup at the third round stage.

And he is looking to mastermind another giant-killing when Rovers welcome Stoke City to the Keepmoat this weekend.

In December 1999, Ferguson scored one and set up the other as Wrexham came from behind to beat Middlesbrough 2-1 at the Racecourse Ground.

Understandably, Ferguson holds that day up as the high point of his experiences with the FA Cup.

“My finest moment would have been when I scored the winner playing for Wrexham against Middlesbrough,” he said. “It was actually the year Man United didn’t take part in it.

“I played against Juninho, Gazza and the likes so it was a big cup shock, that was.”

Anyone looking for omens that history may repeat itself for Ferguson will not be disappointed.

Brian Flynn – the former Rovers midfielder who would guide them into the Championship in 2013 as boss – was the Wrexham manager.

Middlesbrough were managed by a former Manchester United star in Bryan Robson, just as Stoke are with Mark Hughes.

Boro were tenth in the top flight when they played Wrexham. Stoke currently sit tenth,

There was even a link with Boro’s goal, which came from former Rovers striker Brian Deane.

If Sir Alex Ferguson makes an appearance at the Keepmoat this weekend, surely a Rovers upset will be on the cards.

The legendary boss watched from the stands at the Racecourse Ground with his Manchester United side controversially not taking part in the FA Cup due to their commitments to the Club World Cup.

The invite for Sir Alex from the Rovers hierarchy is surely in the post.

Regardless of the outcome, Saturday is sure to deliver one of the most memorable cup afternoons at the Keepmoat with more than 12,000 expected in the ground.

The third round tie delivers an impressive top flight opponent to the home of Rovers with Stoke continuing their renaissance under Hughes.

Gone are the days of the physically robust, industrial Potters with Hughes adapting them into an entertaining attacking force boasting the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic.

A busy period for Stoke means Hughes is likely to see the trip to the Keepmoat as one where he can afford to make numerous changes to his regular line-up.

Heading to South Yorkshire on the back of Tuesday night’s 1-0 defeat to Liverpool in the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg, Stoke have a Premier League tie with Norwich City next Wednesday before hosting Arsenal next weekend.

Hughes opted for changes when Stoke welcomed Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup quarter-finals with Peter Crouch making one of just three starts this season.

Other fringe players such as Marco van Ginkel and Jonathan Walters also started that game and it should be expected that players of a similar ilk will start on Saturday.

Hughes is likely to go with a 4-2-3-1 system with Stoke looking to dominate possession and get plenty of players forward.

If they are to have any chance of getting anything from Saturday’s game, Rovers will likely need to show the type of ruthless counterattacking play they have demonstrated at times since Ferguson took charge.

A switch to the 3-4-3 system he deployed against Oldham Athletic could be attractive to Ferguson, offering his at times leaky defensive line cover from two sitting midfielders in Paul Keegan and Harry Middleton.

With Rovers fully back on track after their impressive 3-0 win at Southend last weekend, a few will fancy a punt on history repeating itself for their influential boss.