Rovers are buzzing for battle with Bees

Thursday 25th April 2013 21:07

Brian Flynn: Rovers are a handful away from home

Brian Flynn: Rovers are a handful away from home

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FanZone's Doncaster blogger Daniel Nice believes Rovers must stick to what they do best in Saturday's titanic League One battle with Brentford.

"And so it has come to this." The words of the late Johnny Carson as he bid farewell to the Tonight show in 1992 could not sum up the League One promotion race between Brentford and Doncaster Rovers any better.

It is the side with the best home record in the division against the team with the best away record. The prize is a place in the Championship. Griffin Park, quite appropriately, will be buzzing for the Bees. If Rovers can take the sting out of their rivals, an instant return to the second tier will be achieved.

Some people have bemoaned the fact it has gone down to the last weekend but didn't you just know it would happen given the way the fixtures fell? I am not a big believer in fate but sometimes you just have to admit the footballing gods are looking down on you!

I have felt all the way along that Brentford have been our biggest rivals for one of the promotion slots and the last-day meeting just seemed too appropriate to be merely coincidental.

Both teams may well be kicking themselves after missed opportunities last Saturday but in essence, the status quo is intact.

Rovers started last weekend three points ahead of Brentford and I expected both sides to win their respective matches against Notts County and Hartlepool. That set of results would have meant a last-day showdown, so the situation is unaltered. The bottom line is that Rovers will have been prepared for a crunch match at Griffin Park.

Brian Flynn would have seen promotion last Saturday as a bonus. I have seen some fans saying Donny blew it against the Magpies but I don't think that was the case. Had we won, who's not to say Brentford wouldn't have gone on to pick up three points in the late kick-off?

Although the Bees made out they didn't know the Saturday afternoon results before they kicked off at the Victoria Ground, I'm far too cynical to believe that was the case. I hate the use of the term "must win" but the Hartlepool-Brentford game would have had that status if Donny beat Notts County - so surely the visitors must have known the result. If they genuinely didn't, they really ought to have done.

That "we didn't know, honest" comment from Kevin O'Connor has been part of plenty of mind games from Brentford, with Uwe Rosler claiming that his side would definitely land automatic promotion before the Hartlepool match.

Confidence and belief? Arrogance and kidology? There's a fine line between those qualities, and I admire the job Rosler has done, but silence is often the best option in these circumstances. Saturday's result will do all of the required talking.

One thing is for certain and that is Flynn is far too long in the tooth and our squad has amassed too much experience to fall for any such rhetoric. The situation is still in our hands. Possession has always been nine-tenths of the law in football. Whatever Brentford say, they have to beat us, or we are up. If they do that then fair play to them.

Brentford may claim a final-day decider as a moral victory given it could have been done and dusted last Saturday, but surely their failure to beat Hartlepool was a bigger slip-up than ours when you think about it?

With us picking up no points, Brentford actually had things in control at 5pm. A win in the North-East would have meant a draw in the last game would seal promotion. The post-match interviews claimed that was unimportant. Better to go out knowing you have to win than draw, went the theory.

I have to strongly disagree with that statement because of modern-day professional football. Most sides set their stall out to be solid, organised and hard to beat. Teams make sure they do not lose first and then look how to win. Brentford are one of the better footballing sides yet they still played with that fear of failure at Hartlepool.

In essence, we have been tremendous on the road and can play our natural game. We have set out to defend well and hit sides on the break in the previous 22 away fixtures. We have been disciplined and well-drilled in order to pick up our results. We have only been beaten four times; two of those by an odd goal. Nothing needs to change.

But Brentford simply have to force the issue. Anyone who says they do not need to alter their approach at Griffin Park on Saturday are wrong. Sure Brentford are excellent at home but recent games have been decided by late goals. Do they risk trying to keep it 0-0 for 85 minutes and nicking a late winner? I daresay that would suit us down to the ground.

The home crowd will demand an all-action, high-tempo approach. If the Bees are not ahead early, nerves will increase. If Doncaster get the first goal, Brentford will have to do something that has not happened in our other 45 fixtures - they will have to come from behind to beat us.

People say that the past counts for nothing in a one-off game and that we shouldn't sit back and soak up the inevitable pressure - but our method is tried-and-trusted and we would be foolish not to use it again. In my eyes, the key to the game is whether we can produce a "Doncaster Rovers 2012-13 away performance" when we need it the most.

If we do, I don't think it will matter how Brentford perform. How many times has a top-half side outplayed us at home this season? I'd say 7/11. How many times have we been beaten? Twice. Who was the better side in the game at the Keepmoat? Brentford. Who won? Doncaster.

When Flynn said we were the best side in the league, he didn't mean that in pure footballing terms. What he was hinting at is that nobody likes to play us. We know our limitations. We are good at what we do - and we do what we are good at.

We may not be pretty to be effective, but we have been pretty effective. And substance before style has always been a better rule of thumb, particularly on occasions like these.

By Daniel Nice, FanZone's Doncaster blogger. Follow him on Twitter at @daniel_nice7 - and don't forget to follow @FanZone too!



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