A muted fixture reveal: A look at Doncaster Rovers' schedule for the coming campaign

It may have been more than five months since Doncaster Rovers last kicked a ball in a competitive fixture but there was an absence of the typical levels of excitement when the new League One schedule was announced on Friday morning.

Friday, 21st August 2020, 12:15 pm

The usual anticipation of where the first match will be and who it will be against was certainly tempered by the fact that it did not really matter - supporters will not be there regardless.

It is a home game against MK Dons - providing a symbolic bookend to the impact of Covid-19 on the League One calendar, with Rovers having visited stadium:MK in the final fixture before football was halted. But, to many supporters, all of that seems pretty inconsequential.

Even looking further down the fixture list, there is a reluctance when it comes to getting hopes up.

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It is expected that supporters will be permitted back into stadiums from October 1, albeit in limited numbers of around a third of the overall capacity.

But with the initial set of trial events postponed once and the fluctuating situation surrounding the pandemic, very few people are pinning all their hopes on being able to take their usual seat in a stadium in just a few weeks’ time.

Even with the expectation that the Keepmoat will be open before the end of the year, the lack of any news about when away supporters will be permitted to re-enter grounds has further reduced the excitement around the release fixtures.

The chance to tick off those stadiums yet to be visited, choosing the ideal fixtures for a weekend away - such points of excitement might not come at all this term.

The absence of proper derbies was also brought home with a glance through the schedule.

Looking at those first few fixtures where supporters could be back at the Keepmoat, Shrewsbury Town are up first on October 10 - with the unfortunate caveat of that match falling on an international weekend.

Ipswich Town would be the first game under the lights on Tuesday, October 20 with Crewe Alexandra to follow at home the following Saturday.

In terms of what supporters will certainly miss, besides the MK Dons clash there should be only one home league fixture - Bristol Rovers on September 26.

The ultra competitive nature of League One means looking for winnable runs of fixtures is never easy.

November looks to be a particularly tricky month, starting with a Tuesday night trip to AFC Wimbledon where Rovers have not fared well in recent seasons. After the FA Cup first round, a visit to Oxford United follows, with home games against Sunderland and Blackpool next up while December kicks off with the reunion with Grant McCann courtesy of a visit to Hull City.

The run of Oxford (h), Sunderland (a), Hull (h), Blackpool (a), Ipswich (a) and Portsmouth (h) through February into March looks more than a little ominous.

There are runs of away fixtures that will ensure Rovers spend plenty of time on the road in a short period of time. Portsmouth (Oct 17), Plymouth (Oct 27), Wimbledon (Nov 3) and Oxford (Nov 14) are consecutive away matches.

The overriding narrative arc of the season will be the last dance of James Coppinger.

And it seems fitting that it will - barring a play-off campaign - be brought to a conclusion at the Keepmoat against Peterborough, a side Rovers have enjoyed some great tussles with in recent seasons and one managed by Darren Ferguson.

Though it was expected with the campaign six weeks shorter than normal, it is still striking how busy the season will be.

Taking away the usual non-Saturday fixtures in the festive period and at Easter, there are 11 midweek rounds - which include trips to Plymouth Argyle, Wimbledon and Blackpool - before any cup competition is taken into account.

In October, with the presence of an EFL Trophy group tie, there will be a match every four days. Managing the squad is going to be vital.

Strap yourselves in, it’s going to go by in a flash - lets hope fans get to come along for the ride.


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