Birmingham City v Doncaster Rovers: Paul Goodwin’s Verdict

Giles Barnes could be rewarded for his lively display against Southampton with a starting place at St Andrew's. Picture: Andrew Roe
Giles Barnes could be rewarded for his lively display against Southampton with a starting place at St Andrew's. Picture: Andrew Roe

DEAN Saunders will have the easiest team selection and team-talk of his short Rovers reign this weekend.

Barring any training ground injuries, the only call Saunders has to make is whether to start with Herold Goulon or Giles Barnes in midfield.

And it’ll also be a case of “more of the same please lads” when it comes to cajoling his players for their trip to face Championship Euro-stars Birmingham.

Not that they’ll need much cajoling.

The performance against Southampton epitomised everything that Saunders is trying to bring to the club: heart, desire and plenty of will-to-win.

It came just at the right time - just as the doubters were ready to round on the so-called McKay Project.

And now it’s all about repeating that display at St Andrew’s where Rovers will face a City team currently punching below their weight.

Most pleasing on Saturday was the way the new and old guard gelled so well, and stuck to the task of keeping out the division’s top scorers.

Rovers got that bit of luck they have been lacking when the Saints were unable to call upon 14-goal striker Rickie Lambert and influential midfielder Richard Chaplow.

But there was nothing lucky about the way Doncaster’s players dug deep to get the job done.

Rock solid Carl Ikeme is quickly becoming Saunders’ best bit of business.

The Wolves loanee goes about his business in authoritative manner that can only fill the back four with confidence.

Habib Beye also looks a class apart in what many thought was an unfamiliar centre back role.

But it was the performance of some of Doncaster’s contracted players - who are fighting for their futures just as much as these loan stars who apparently will move onto bigger and better things - that really caught the eye.

Beye is bringing the best out of his defensive partner Sam Hird who did not put a foot wrong on Saturday.

Sam never lets anyone down, and with Beye alongside him he has the chance to get a long-awaited run in the side.

James O’Connor was back to his burly best at right back, while Brian Stock’s display was his personal best for quite some time.

James Coppinger, who has spent a bit of time out of the side in recent weeks, also looked like a man determined to hold onto the shirt.

The key for Doncaster is now finding some semblance of consistency.

It has been a case of one step forward and two back this season; after Peterborough came the Leeds disappointment, following the Ipswich win came the Barnsley disaster.

It’s time for the players to prove they can be more than one hit wonders in this division.

And while a tough task lies in wait at Birmingham, there will be no complaints from anyone if Doncaster show the same level of commitment as they did on Saturday.

Goulon will get the nod ahead of Barnes this weekend if he can prove his fitness, because the Blackburn man looked well short against the Saints.

But Saunders will err on the side of caution by opting for the more defensive -minded Goulon against a Blues outfit who possess a genuine attacking threat through the likes of Marlon King, Nikola Zigic and Chris Burke.

St Andrew’s is a big stage for Rovers’ loan men to impress any watching scouts and it should hold no fears for a side that toppled the league leaders.

Gaining some sort of momentum before the Christmas period would be a huge fillip for Rovers, and with Billy Sharp in form they are capable of getting something.

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