After a couple of frustrating away days last week, Plymouth Argyle will be looking forward to the familiar surroundings of Home Park for their clash with Doncaster Rovers. Ahead of the game, we spoke to Doncaster fan site Into The Empty Net, who can also be found on Twitter, for our Opposition View.
First of all, how did you get into supporting Doncaster?
It’s a family thing! I asked my dad if I could go to the opening game of the 1999/2000 season because he had given me a copy of Shoot! magazine and it got me interested in football, although I was only six years old at the time. It’s been a big part of my life ever since, and my Grandad actually was the first person to video tape matches at our old Belle Vue ground back in the 1950s.
Are there any Doncaster players in particular we should be looking out for?
Is it cheating to say all of them? We’ve been a good team this season with threat and goals spread across the team. Keep your eyes on Josh Sims if you can; the winger signed on loan from Southampton on Deadline Day and has been an instant hit, with three assists and a goal in just three games. Our captain Ben Whiteman has continued his progress in midfield and is probably the best passer of a ball in League One at this stage – we’ve done well to keep hold of him for this season in all honesty.
What are your thoughts on Darren Moore as he enters his second full season as manager at Doncaster?
Darren is universally loved by Rovers fans and for good reason. He is an honest, stand-up individual and he has proven himself a solid tactician and motivator as a manager in his year-plus at the club. He likes to preach a philosophy of setting up his team to combat opponents even if it means leaving out players in form, and to be honest it has largely worked despite doubts from some corners. He is building a young, hungry and talented team and we are all happily along for the ride at the moment.
And what have you made of your start to this season so far?
I can have no real complaints. We comfortably won away at Charlton, beat Portsmouth on their own ground 10 days ago and annihilated Ipswich at home last Tuesday night. These are statement results and prove we have the talent to compete with anyone in this league. Finding the right combination in some areas of the team will take some time, and most of the squad are under 25 so mistakes will happen, but we have to be pleased with how Rovers have started the season and despite a couple of hiccups, the mood is positive right now.
What sort of tactical style do you expect to set up with on Tuesday?
We’ll set up with a 4-2-3-1 formation barring a big surprise. Darren Moore likes his team to play the ball on the floor wherever possible, get it out wide and try to exploit gaps in and around the defensive zone of the opponents. If Jon Taylor overcomes an injury he suffered on Saturday against Crewe, the pace on show from him and Josh Sims will be a big focus and something Plymouth will have to find a way to combat, whilst we will play the ball out from the back and look to build attacks through Ben Whiteman and the full backs too.
And are there any real weak links in the side you’re worried about?
If you had asked me this two weeks ago I would have said yes, central midfield, but we addressed the issue on Deadline Day with the loan signing of Wales international Matt Smith from Manchester City. Before his arrival, Whiteman was being asked to do a lot defensively because he was paired in the midfield two with more attack-minded players, like Madger Gomes. Smith’s arrival however has addressed this and our midfield players are now better able to share the load, so to speak.
What first comes to mind when you think of Plymouth Argyle?
Sadly, memories of our battles in League Two a few seasons ago stick, so undesirable faces like Derek Adams and Luke McCormick loom large. I’m not sure many in the Rovers camp have forgiven McCormick for his antics in those two games, particularly goading young forward Liam Mandeville after he missed a penalty, which resulted in James Coppinger getting sent off for throttling the goalkeeper.
Beyond that, I did appreciate the Paul Sturrock-led Argyle side of the 2000s that reached the Championship. David Norris, David Friio and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake among them made for a really good team and one that I’m sure is well thought of by your fans!
Which Argyle player, if any, would you like to sign?
From what I’ve seen of him, I like how Luke Jephcott plays. As a young forward with an eye for goal, he is the sort of player we like to try and develop and I think he would fit in well with our squad and set-up. That said, I highly doubt we’d make a move to sign him as we tend to look at young Premier League players for the bulk of our recruitment these days.
What are your predictions for League One in general this year?
I think it’s wide open, any one of about a dozen teams could get promoted and Plymouth are one of the teams who could make a run at the Play-Offs if everything falls right. There are a number of big sides in League One but they all have flaws from where I’m sitting, especially Sunderland and Portsmouth. Hull have made a good start but whether they can sustain that remains to be seen in my opinion, whilst Ipswich and Peterborough have already shown they are fallible.
The big thing is going to be whether or not the season gets finished thanks to Covid! We all live in hope.
And finally, what is your prediction for the game itself?
I think it will be a tight contest and one which both sides will fancy their chances in. A score draw is my prediction, we are solid at the back but can get exposed in games whilst we should always carve out enough chances to get a goal or two.