What to expect from Doncaster Rovers' friendly at Bradford City
It was expected to be a game in which Doncaster Rovers stepped up their preparations for the new campaign against good league opposition.
But the trip to Bradford City this afternoon has become more of an obligation than an essential outing.
The Covid-19 case in the camp, and requirement for others to isolate due to close contact, has decimated a large portion of Richie Wellens’ senior squad and ensured he will head to Valley Parade with vastly depleted numbers.
The true extent of this will be revealed during the game but Wellens has said publicly that he is likely to have only three or four senior players at his disposal against the ambitious League Two outfit.
Here is what to expect from Rovers at Valley Parade.
WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED
Had Covid not hit the squad, Rovers would have two friendlies under their belts where the focus would firmly have been on fitness.
This game would have been the first opportunity for players to begin building more minutes on the pitch as well as putting into practice more of what Wellens wants from his side.
Instead, Wellens will focus on getting as much as possible from the outing in the circumstances. Boosting fitness of those available will be the priority.
The remaining six trialists who spent the first few weeks of pre-season training with the club are all set to feature this afternoon.
Aidan Barlow, Aramide Oteh, Charlie Colkett, Dan Gardner, Tunji Akinola and Owen Bailey should play.
But they are expected to be joined by around half a dozen more in order for Rovers to have enough numbers to get through the game.
These trialists have been invited in with that understanding, but can earn themselves a longer opportunity at a contract if they play well this afternoon.
It is understood that former Leicester City youngster Darnell Johnson will feature.
The centre back left the King Power Stadium earlier this summer. He did not make a senior appearance for the Foxes but had loan spells with Wigan Athletic, Hibernian and AFC Wimbledon.
CHANCE FOR YOUNGSTERS
If there is one group of players that will have the biggest opportunity to benefit from the current situation, it is the younger players at the club.
The likes of Lirak Hasani, Liam Ravenhill and Ben Blythe were only likely to be used as substitutes through pre-season, slotting in when injuries were picked up or when there were gaps in the squad.
But they will be given a chance to impress today that they would not ordinarily have been afforded.
The Rovers squad needs to be bolstered to give the depth required to tackle a busy third tier campaign, and the young players can state their case to be part of Wellens’ plans.
Or they can earn themselves a loan move to build their senior level experience.
New Bradford boss Derek Adams has said this week that he is comfortable with the state of his squad and looking forward to stepping up his preparations for the season.
The Bantams will undoubtedly come into this game in better shape than Rovers and will provide a stern test.