What to expect from Doncaster Rovers' friendly with Sheffield United

Doncaster Rovers have plenty to build upon as they welcome Championship side Sheffield United for their latest friendly at the Keepmoat.

Wednesday, 28th July 2021, 10:04 am

Rovers impressed during their 3-2 defeat to Newcastle United on Friday and boss Richie Wellens will be looking for more of certain aspects of their performance against the Magpies.

The squad will continue to shake off the impact of ten days of isolation due to a single case of Covid-19 in the camp - something the Blades know all about having endured their own brush with coronavirus this pre-season.

Here, we take a look at what to expect from tonight’s friendly, which will kick off at 7pm.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Former Doncaster Rovers favourite Billy Sharp could feature for Sheffield United tonight


One of the biggest impacts of the period of isolation for so many senior players has been the lack of a build-up of game time that is traditionally associated with a pre-season programme.

Fitness levels looked okay during the first half of the Newcastle friendly with plenty receiving more game time after the break.

Wellens is keen to build up minutes for players in this game, particularly those who were forced into isolation.

Matt Smith is set to play the full game while as many as possible will push beyond the hour mark.

Skipper Tom Anderson is also likely to get a full 90 minutes. He will start alongside Ro-Shaun Williams but Cameron John is expected to get significant game time after impressing Wellens during the second half against Newcastle.

Strikers Omar Bogle and Tiago Cukur will split time on the pitch in the central attacking role.


The common theme this pre-season has been the use of trialists and that is set to continue against the Blades, in both halves.

It is expected that former Reading forward Jayden Onen will start the game while ex-Tottenham Hotspur attacker Shayon Harrison will play some part.

Midfielder Louis Reed is set to feature against his former club with Wellens hopeful of being able to offer the 24-year-old a deal at some stage.

Rovers were awaiting confirmation from a new trialist that he would be willing to feature in the game. The player in question is an experienced full back with experience across the top four English leagues.


While impressed with possession play against Newcastle, the Rovers boss felt there could have been significant improvement in defensive organisation, particularly during the transition from attack to defence.

After the game, he said: “Our game management needs to be better. We knew we could get countered because Newcastle have got speed.

“The first goal, Louis [Jones] kicked the ball while we were open, we lost the first ball and it landed in space in midfield to one of the fastest players in the Premier League, never mind League One.

“The next two are counter attack goals where we can commit the foul. The second goal, our midfield players track all the way into the six yard box when there’s no one there.

“We’ll work on it.”


There could be more experimentation from the Blades as they build up to the start of the Championship season.

New boss Slavisa Jokanovic is playing catch-up, with his preparations disrupted by an outbreak of Covid-19 within his squad.

Full training for the Blades only resumed on Monday meaning this friendly will give an indication of fitness levels just ten days out from the start of the new campaign.

Tactical work has been limited for Jokanovic too, meaning the importance of tonight’s match has increased for the Serb.

Scotland’s John Fleck and Wales’ Rhys Norrington-Davies are both expected to play having reported back from international duty but England keeper Aaron Ramsdale is set to miss out.

Former Rovers favourite Billy Sharp may play but it will depend on whether Jokanovic risks the striker, who had surgery at the end of last season.


In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.