ROVERS BID TO WIN TITLE AGAINST RELEGATION-THREATENED POOLS

By Alex Gibbings

Doncaster Rovers travel north on Saturday, knowing that only a win will give them any chance of regaining top spot and clinching the title on the final day of the League Two season.

Rovers face Hartlepool United at Victoria Park in the hope that should they win and Plymouth drop points, they will be champions. Their hosts, on the other hand, need to win to have any hope of staying in the Football League, as well as hoping that Newport County lose at home to Notts County.

Darren Ferguson (R) has seen his side’s grip on the title fade away, and now Rovers need to win on Saturday to stand any chance of becoming champions.

The Pools recently sacked manager Dave Jones in a last-minute bid to preserve their 96-year status as a Football League club, replacing him with players Matthew Bates and club-captain Billy Paynter.

Captain Paynter is no stranger to Rovers, having played a part in their dramatic League One title win in 2013. This time however, Paynter will be hoping that he can halt his former clubs’ title bid.

Rovers will be hoping to halt their three-game losing streak, which saw them surrender the top spot which they had held since early January. Plymouth are now in pole position, with Rovers now relying on Grimsby Town to help them in their title bid.

John Marquis has struggled since scoring a hat-trick away at Grimsby on April 1, and Rovers look set to rely on him to lead the line, with Marquis’ three potential strike partners all coming back from injury. Alfie May would be Darren Ferguson’s first choice should he be fit; he suffered a dead leg at Wycombe on April 22, and started on the bench during last week’s 3-1 defeat at home to Exeter City.

John Marquis has netted 26 goals this season, but hasn’t scored since his hat-trick on April 8 at Grimsby Town.

Andy Williams has only scored two goals since Boxing Day’s 1-0 win over Notts County, but his constant running at opposition defence’s could cause the Pools a few problems. Young Liam Mandeville is Ferguson’s final option, but he has struggled with injuries since New Year’s Eve game with Mansfield Town. Mandeville has impressed when coming off the bench however over the past few games, and so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was to partner the league’s joint top score Marquis.

For Hartlepool, caretaker manager Bates has said that key player Nathan Thomas might miss out on their relegation decider. Thomas has a knee problem that has been causing him trouble over the last week, and Hartlepool will be sweating over their star man’s fitness.

No matter what the result on Saturday night for Rovers, promotion back to League One is already secured, but the disappointment of their end to the season will now leave fans unsure on whether they will be able to readjust to life back in the third tier. Winning the title will mean that Rovers will be able to salvage some sort of momentum going in to the next campaign, but their stuttering end will definitely give a cause for concern.

Will James Coppinger be lifting the League Two title on Saturday? His goal at Brentford in 2013 won Rovers the title, and Rovers fans will be hoping there is a repeat.

Ferguson will need to make a lot of squad changes in the summer, with Rovers showing a lack of ability outside of the main starting 11, with only a few players not starting week in week out really staking a claim for their place in the side. Strength in depth will be key if they are to succeed and follow in the footsteps of Burton in achieving back to back promotions.

Now though, Rovers will just take it how it comes and will be focusing on the task in hand, and hopefully, they will be able to regain top spot and steal the League Two title on the final day of what has been a highly successful season for football in South Yorkshire.



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