Meet the opposition: Play-off pain, the break-up, Moore’s magic and some never-say-die spirit

Doncaster Rovers are led by manager Darren Moore. Picture: PA

Doncaster Rovers are led by manager Darren Moore. Picture: PA - Credit: Archant

Ipswich Town host Doncaster Rovers in what is a clash between two unbeaten League One clubs at Portman Road tomorrow afternoon. STUART WATSON takes a closer look at the South Yorkshire visitors.

Doncaster were beaten in the League One play-offs by Charlton last season, with the Addicks fans inv

Doncaster were beaten in the League One play-offs by Charlton last season, with the Addicks fans invading the pitch at The Valley. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

POTTED HISTORY

Doncaster Rovers have, historically, been a fourth or third-tier club. There was a five-year spell in the Conference (98-03) followed by three promotions in seven years, followed by a period of Championship football (08-12 and 13/14).

Back down to League Two they dropped - relegations in 2014 and 2016 - before bouncing immediately back to League One.

Doncaster midfielder Ben Sheaf is on loan at the Keepmoat from Arsenal. Picture: PA

Doncaster midfielder Ben Sheaf is on loan at the Keepmoat from Arsenal. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

BEATING THE ODDS


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Few expected Doncaster to be in the promotion mix last season off the back of a 15th-place finish, but they beat the odds to finish sixth.

They gave Charlton a hell of a scare in the play-off semi-finals too, eventually losing on penalties at The Valley following a 4-4 aggregate draw over the two legs.

Darren Moore was appointed Doncaster boss this summer and has started well. Picture: PA

Darren Moore was appointed Doncaster boss this summer and has started well. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

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THE BREAK-UP

Manager Grant McCann was lured away by Championship club Hull in June. Six of the team that started that play-off second leg all moved on too, with many turning down new deals.

Experienced winger Tommy Rowe moved up the ladder to Bristol City on a Bosman free transfer. Captain and centre-back Andy Butler turned down a new deal to rejoin his boyhood club Scunthorpe.

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Keeper Marko Marosi (Coventry, Bosman), left-back Danny Andrew (Fleetwood, Bosman), right-back Paul Downing (Blackburn loan expired), midfielder Herbie Kane (Liverpool loan expired) and 11-goal player of the year Mallik Wilks (Leeds loan expired) also departed.

Then, with the new campaign fast approaching, star striker John Marquis - who had bagged 67 goals in his three seasons at The Keepmoat Stadium - moved to League One rivals Portsmouth for a fee that could reportedly reach as high as £2m.

MOVING FOR MOORE

Kazaiah Sterling is on loan at Doncaster from Tottenham Hotspur. Picture: PA

Kazaiah Sterling is on loan at Doncaster from Tottenham Hotspur. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Darren Moore, a defender for Rovers in the 90s, was appointed the club's new boss in July.

In April 2018 he was promoted from youth team coach to caretaker boss at West Brom following Alan Pardew's sacking. Wins against Manchester United, Newcastle and Tottenham, as well as draws against Liverpool and Swansea were enough to bag him the Premier League Manager of the Month award but not enough to prevent relegation.

The Baggies were in a play-off position when Moore got the sack just hours after a 1-1 home draw with Ipswich in March.

John Marquis scored 26 goals for Doncaster last season but was sold to Portsmouth this summer. Pictu

John Marquis scored 26 goals for Doncaster last season but was sold to Portsmouth this summer. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

THE REBUILD

Moore has used his contacts to bring in a clutch of Premier League loanees.

Centre-back Cameron John (20) and forward Niall Ennis (20) arrived from Wolves, while midfielder Ben Sheaf (21) and striker Kazaiah Sterling (20) have been borrowed from Arsenal and Tottenham respectively.

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Ben Whiteman captains Doncaster despite being just 23. Picture: PA

Ben Whiteman captains Doncaster despite being just 23. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Winger Jon Taylor (Rotherham), right-back Brad Halliday (Cambridge United), veteran centre-back Alex Baptiste (QPR) and former Leeds midfielder Madger Gomes (NK Istra) were all free transfer additions, while left-back Reece James - a regular for Sunderland last season - was signed for an undisclosed fee.

COMEBACK KINGS

Five league games played, five unbeaten.

James Coppinger, now 38, has made more than 500 appearances for Rovers and is a former Ipswich targe

James Coppinger, now 38, has made more than 500 appearances for Rovers and is a former Ipswich target. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Why just five? Because Bury were due to be their second opponents of the season. And because Bolton called off their scheduled midweek match due to 'player welfare issues'. That latter was in the week leading up to Town's 5-0 win at The University of Bolton Stadium.

Moore's men have gone behind in six of their seven matches they've played in all competitions. They've lost just once (1-0 at Grimsby in the Carabao Cup).

Losing positions were turned into wins against Fleetwood (3-2 at home), Lincoln (3-1 at home in the EFL Trophy) and Rotherham (2-1 at home) and draws against Gillingham (1-1 at home) and Rochdale (1-1 away).

Due to those aforementioned call-offs, Doncaster have played five of their seven games at home, including the last four in a row.

Grant McCann left Doncaster for Hull this summer after taking Rovers to the play-offs last season. P

Grant McCann left Doncaster for Hull this summer after taking Rovers to the play-offs last season. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

STAR MAN

Ben Whiteman has been given the captain's armband at just 23. The former Sheffield United youngster, much like Flynn Downes at Ipswich, is really starting to blossom. His work allows veteran playmaker James Coppinger - now aged 38 and closing in on 500 league starts for Donny - to create.

Doncaster striker Alex Kiwomya, pictured right during his Chelsea days, is the nephew of former Ipsw

Doncaster striker Alex Kiwomya, pictured right during his Chelsea days, is the nephew of former Ipswich man Chris Kiwomya. Picture: ARCHANT/PA - Credit: Archant

THEY'RE SAYING

"It's a tough, tough game," said Moore, when asked about Ipswich. "Everybody has them favourites to return back to the Championship because of the resources they've got.

"For me, it's a tough test but they are the test we should look forward to in terms of going into battle with these teams.

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"We're both in League One and it's a fixture that has come about.

"It's great that both clubs are in the ascendancy and both have had solid starts to the season."

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