'It'll keep us afloat for the year' - Rossington Main eagerly anticipating Doncaster Rovers friendly
Under normal circumstances it would be a very welcome financial boost for any local non-league club.
But for Rossington Main, on the back of an 18-month period that has been anything but normal, the opportunity to host Doncaster Rovers this weekend has even greater significance.
"Obviously after the troubles of the last two years, it’s very important,” said Main chairman Carl Stokes, who is hoping for a crowd in excess of 1000 at Oxford Street on Saturday.
“It basically keeps the club afloat for the year, for most of the season.
“We’ve had to slightly increase the ticket prices this year because we won’t be taking as much revenue on the bar and on food because of the restrictions.
“If it had been a couple of weeks later it’d be different, which is Sod’s law, but we’ll doing a take-out bar service.
"The money we make will certainly take care of all our bills,” he added.
“We’ve done a lot of development this year; all new showers, dressing rooms, toilets, new floodlights, new pitch equipment.
“We’ve had grants from the FA which have helped tremendously but we’ve still had to finance a third of that ourselves.
“The downtime has given us the chance to do a lot of work to be fair. There’s certainly a buzz about the club and the pitch is ready and waiting for some games to get on there.”
Main manager Ben Hunter says there is anticipation among the local community ahead of the fixture.
"Obviously it's been a really tough time for non-league as a whole,” he said. “For Rossington Main this game is absolutely vital for us.
"The gate receipts are obviously a massive plus for the club because, like other clubs at this level, it's been an uncertain future.
“The community is really looking forward to it as well and preparations are well underway to make it as welcoming as possible for Doncaster Rovers.
“We're really proud of the pitch and the volunteers here work fantastically and around the clock.
"Even during Covid the volunteering has been amazing. Steve Lodge, our groundsman, also won Groundsman of the Year last season and the pitch is looking outstanding
“We've got a small village club that everyone is proud to be associated with.”
Rossington Main manager Ben Hunter wants this weekend’s friendly to be a useful exercise for both his side and Doncaster Rovers.
Hunter will no doubt urge his players to keep a disciplined defensive shape and try to impose their game on Richie Wellens’ side as much as possible.
“I want it to be useful for Doncaster Rovers. We don’t want to turn up and just roll over,” Hunter told the Free Press.
“We want it to be something where they can get some usefulness out of it for their management team and hopefully it’ll be a useful exercise for both clubs.”
Hunter, who is also manager of Doncaster Rovers’ Training Centre, has a foot in both camps in some senses.
His connections have led to a number of players deemed not good enough for Rovers ending up at Rossington.
“In my role in the development system at Rovers I work closely with Gary McSheffrey [18s manager] and Tony Cook [academy manager],” said Hunter.
“It’s nice to have those links.
“We’ve got players like Jack Watson and Elliott Walker who have been at Rovers and it’s not quite worked out for them.
“They can come to Rossington and continue their education in football.
“Elliott is actually currently on trial at York City which is great for him. He came in and had a good season and now he’s got his opportunity to move up the ladder.
“That’s exactly what we want. We know where we are in the league ladder. There will be players move on, but that’s us doing our job and that’s how it should be in my opinion.”
There is a cautious optimism at Rossington Main ahead of the new season.
Main, who have never played in the NCEL Premier Division, finished seventh in Division One in 2012 but have not managed a top half finish since then.
Ben Hunter’s young side started last season in very encouraging fashion and were placed seventh when the campaign was cancelled.
However, Main’s boss has warned that his finely-tuned squad will still need time to gel.
“We’ve got a really good squad coming together,” he said. “This is our third year at Rossington although both seasons have been cut short and I think we’re in a good position in terms of our playing squad.
“For me, I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t optimistic. Rossington have never been promoted so that’s the goal for me and my management team.
“We were going along nicely last season so it was frustrating that the season was cut short but it just got hit like everything else did basically.
“I’m hopeful we can carry it on but we’ve got a new group to some extent so you’re always going to need a bit of time to gel.
“We’ve still got a very young team but we’ve added a couple of experienced players to help the youngsters.”
Chairman Carl Stokes added: “I’m really enthusiastic about the squad. It’s settled and there’s a lot of experience in there with a few ex-higher league players.”
Tickets for Saturday’s game can be bought at the Keepmoat Stadium box office, Rossington Main clubhouse and the Welfare, priced £10 for adults and £5 concessions.