What to expect from Doncaster Rovers' friendly at Rossington Main - new faces, trialists, fans and more
Richie Wellens’ evolving Doncaster Rovers side will get their first taste of match action this afternoon as they visit Rossington Main.
Here is what to expect at Oxford Road for Rovers.
It was 62 days ago that Rovers brought to a close a season that promised so much for so long but ultimately delivered only disappointment.
At that point it was already clear that wholesale changes were likely ahead of kick-off for the next campaign, including in the dugout. And so it proved.
Of the starting XI from the ignominious 4-1 defeat to Peterborough United on the final day, only five players remain - stretched to eight of the matchday 18.
Looking back to the first league game of last season, only two of the starting XI from that day are still with the club.
The man in the hotseat has also changed, with Wellens arriving shortly after the end of the campaign to fill the shoes occupied by both Darren Moore and then Andy Butler last term.
Rovers will be without Jon Taylor, who had surgery on his ankle on Tuesday, while Fejiri Okenabirhie is set to miss out as he shakes off injury niggles.
So far Wellens has added five players to his squad - with another to come this weekend, albeit not in time to play at Rossington.
Injury permitting, Ro-Shaun Williams, Kyle Knoyle, Matt Smith and Ben Close should all get their first minutes in Rovers colours, with Tommy Rowe making his welcome return too.
These five will be the foundation of a new-look Rovers and it will be interesting to get an early glimpse of what they will bring to a Wellens side.
Wellens has bolstered numbers over the first two weeks of training with the addition of a group of trialists, many of which will feature at Oxford Road.
Emyr Huws was released from his trial earlier in the week with Wellens deciding against pursuing a deal for the Wales international midfielder.
But all others should be present for the game on Saturday.
Defenders Tunji Akinola and Owen Bailey, midfielders Charlie Colkett and Aidan Barlow, and forward Aramide Oteh are expected to feature, along with at least one more trialist that has so far gone unnamed.
A NEW SYSTEM AND STYLE
Wellens is set to go with a 4-3-3 system in the main this season. Whether we see a switch to this in this first game is unclear.
The Rovers boss is without a full complement of players to fill the berths in the system - either through injury or them having not yet arrived.
With two teams set to play 45 minutes apiece, the game itself will be more of an exercise in fitness and drills for Rovers than anything else so don’t expect too much of what will come from the side at this stage.
But Wellens will want to see elements of the way he wishes to play this season, including a strong press, good use of the ball and quick movement.
WHAT THE GAFFER SAID
“We’ll introduce certain things that will help us going forward,” Wellens said.
“There’s no point us turning up at Rossington, winning 4-0, having the ball for 80 per cent of the possession and everyone just ticking over.
“We don’t get anything out of that so we’ll stage manage certain scenarios within the game that will allow us to get something out of it.
“There will be one team play 45 minutes and another team that will play the second so it will allow us to maximise not just the physical part of it but also the tactical stuff as well.”
Hosts Rossington have their sights set on promotion to the Northern Counties East League Premier Division this season.
There is likely to be a few former Rovers youngsters to feature for Main, with Elliott Walker and Jack Watson currently on their books.
Pre-season is going well so far for Ben Hunter’s side with a thumping 11-0 win over Mexborough Athletic and a 3-0 triumph over Wakefield AFC - who Rovers visit on Tuesday week. A 3-2 defeat at Pontefract Collieries is the only blip on their pre-season record so far.
Judging by pictures on social media this week, Rovers will be playing on a carpet of a pitch too.
Last, but certainly not least, is the return of supporters to a Doncaster Rovers game for the first time since early March 2020.
Given the status of the game and the surroundings, it would be easy to overlook just how significant a moment this will be.
Fans have been locked out for a ridiculously long time so a bumper crowd is expected, which will be music to the ears of the hosts.
A small number of tickets will be available on the gate, so get there early if you have not already purchased a ticket.
And while you are likely to get wet, if the forecast is anything to go by, it will be worth it for the communal experience of being at a Rovers game in person for the first time in a long time.