Preview: Doncaster Rovers v Sunderland Under 21s
Doncaster Rovers will aim to continue their enjoyment of the Checkatrade Trophy this evening despite an overwhelming sense of frustration at their current plight.
The competition has met with much criticism since its recent revamp but you won’t hear anyone from inside Rovers with a bad word to say about it.
Last season it notably aided the development of Liam Mandeville.
And in the Group H opener at Grimsby Town in August there were signs it could do the same for Alfie Beestin.
Sadly Beestin is unlikely to be fit enough to face Sunderland Under 21s at the Keepmoat Stadium tonight (7.30pm) - in front of what could be a sparse crowd.
Highly rated youngster Will Longbottom also misses out after sustaining a serious knee injury while out on loan at Kidderminster.
But despite those absentees, their poor form and very limited interest from the general public, Rovers will embrace the different challenge awaiting them this evening in the form of Sunderland’s academy prospects.
“Over the last couple of seasons we’ve really liked the Checkatrade Trophy,” said assistant boss Gavin Strachan.
“We feel it’s been a really good platform for players who need game time and players who want to stake a claim for a professional contract or really get into the manager’s mind.
“It’s worked well for us.
“The last game at Grimsby was a really productive outing. It got Rodney Kongolo more game time and he’s carried on progressing.
“It also got Issam [Ben Khemis] some game time, Tyler Garratt, and Alfie Beestin who was really good in that game.
“So it provides us with that, and we’ll carry on in the same mould with it.”
Rovers go into tonight on the back of six defeats from their last seven games in all competitions.
“Frustration is the biggest word at the moment,” said Strachan. “Frustration not just for us, but for the fans as well.
“We don’t feel the performance levels are far away from being able to go on a positive run of results. Fine margins have been against us.”
Sunderland featured Jack Rodwell, Adam Matthews, Donald Love and former Rovers loanee Lynden Gooch when they lost at Scunthorpe in their Group H opener.
Rovers have two points to their name after a penalty shoot-out win at Grimsby.