HAVING seen his new charges clip the Eagles’ wings on Saturday, new Doncaster Rovers boss Dean Saunders will be looking for them to tame the Tigers in tonight’s Championship clash at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Rovers remain bottom of the table but will go into the match with sixth-placed Hull City boosted by their first league win of the season - a 1-0 home win over Crystal Palace.
“That’s what we wanted,” said Brian Stock. “It was more or less three points at all cost just to end the run (of 19 games without a win) and get some positivity back into the squad.
“It was a great start for our new manager. It was a bit scrappy but it is three points on the board and hopefully it will kick-start our season.
“It was a great feeling to get our first league win and all the lads were buzzing in the changing room after the game.”
Although most of the Doncaster players knew Saunders only by reputation, not so Stock.
“I’ve known the new manager (formerly No 2 to ex-Wales manager John Toshack) through my involvement with Wales,” said Stock. “He’s a terrific person and I look forward to working with him.
“He’s a bubbly character and he sort of livened us up a bit in training (on the day before the match) with a bit of banter as well which got all the lads laughing. He told us to go out there and play it at a high tempo and go out and win the game and we did that.
“We rode our luck a couple of times and we got a lucky break (John Oster’s deflected goal) for once this season and we hung on and battled hard for the three points.
“When you go a goal up things do sort of change a bit and it gives you something to hold on to so it was good to get the goal advantage and I thought we closed the game out very well.”
Chairman John Ryan and his fellow directors, who made the difficult decision to fire the long-serving Sean O’Driscoll, arguably the most successful manager in the club’s history, last Thursday night, are hoping that they have backed another winner in former Wrexham boss Saunders.
“He’s only been here since Friday and it’s early days, but the signs on Saturday were promising,” said Stock. It was the influential midfielder’s first start to a competitive match since a second ankle reconstruction operation at the end of last season.
“I felt good,” he told The Star.
“It takes three or four games before you start firing on all cylinders. Fitness-wise I felt okay and I felt that I’d done a job for the team.”
Another familiar face who has spent most of the season on the sidelines through injury, striker Billy Sharp, was also back in action in Saturday’s game. Back playing several weeks ahead of schedule, Sharp came off the bench to a huge cheer on 56 minutes when the score stood at 0-0.
“The crowd decided to turn up when Billy came on the pitch so we certainly knew he was back,” said Stock.
“It’s obviously a boost for everybody having him back in the team.
“We’ve got some terrific players here and if we can keep a fully-fit squad and win a few games I’m sure that we can climb up the league.
“We can take confidence from Saturday’s game and go into tonight’s game with nothing to nothing to lose and I don’t see why we can’t pick up another three points,”
Hull climbed into the top six of the Championship for the first time since Nigel Pearson took charge following Saturday’s 1-1 draw at lowly Bristol City - though they dropped down to seventh on goal difference after Cardiff drew 0-0 with big-spending Leicester yesterday.
Pearson returned to his old club last month to bring Foxes’ striker Martyn Waghorn - also a target for Rovers - in on loan.
Team and referee
ROVERS (possible): Sullivan, O’Connor, Martis, Naylor, Friend, Coppinger, Stock, Gillett, Bennett, Hayter, Parkin (4-4-2)
HULL CITY (possible): Basso, Rosenior, Chester Hobbs, Dudgeon, Brady, Cairney, McKenna, Koren, McLean, Waghorn.
STEVEN RUSHTON (Staffs): Has dished out 17 yellow cards and one red this season.
One to watch
MATTY FRYATT: Hull boss Nigel Pearson splashed out £1.2m last January to bring the 25 year-old Leicester City striker to the KC Stadium.
Fryatt set a new record for the fastest ever goal (nine seconds) scored by a Walsall player - against Sean O’Driscoll’s Bournemouth.
On moving to Leicester he became the club’s first player in 42 years to score 20 goals before Christmas.
He suffered a double fracture of his jaw in the 2009-10 season after an accidental collision with Rovers Brian Stock.
Tonight will be only the third meeting between the two sides at Championship level.
Rovers posted an early-season 3-1 home win over the relegated Tigers, Martin Woods, Billy Sharp and James Coppinger scoring.
Hull, particularly away from home, were going well when Rovers, battling against relegation at the time, made the return trip to Humberside last April.
City gave Rovers, who squandered several chances, a lesson in finishing when winning 3- 1. Matty Fryatt bagged a brace.