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Doncaster Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

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Fan Focus: Writer Paul Goodwin says “it could be a very difficult and long afternoon” for Donny!

Ahead of Sunderland’s clash with Doncaster, we spoke to Doncaster Free Press sports writer and Sunderland fan Paul Goodwin to chat about Gary McSheffery’s side ahead of today’s game!

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Matthew Crichton: Lee Johnson was sacked as Sunderland’s manager following a 6-0 thrashing against Bolton, as a Sunderland fan yourself did you think that was the correct decision?

Paul Goodwin: Looking at the bigger picture I can’t say I’m 100% behind the decision. But, having witnessed the defeats at Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday, I can understand how the Bolton debacle may have tipped the balance.

It’s obviously a massive roll of the dice. The club has put itself under enormous pressure to appoint the right man.

MC: Roy Keane and Grant McCann are the current favourites for the job - who would you like to see take over?

PG: KLD has gambled so he might as well go all in on Keane! If it works, we could really have lift-off. If it doesn’t, we look elsewhere in the summer and start again.

McCann knows how to get out of this league but I’m not sure the Sunderland fans would really buy into that appointment. He also relied almost exclusively on 4-3-3 during his time at Donny and I’m not convinced that would suit our personnel.

MC: Almost 40,000 is expected currently at the Stadium of Light for Jermain Defoe’s return to the club, do you think it will be an incredibly difficult atmosphere for Doncaster to cope with?

PG: In a word, yes. Rovers are an inexperienced team with a weak underbelly and if Sunderland get their tails up early doors it could be a very difficult and long afternoon for them.

They showed some fight in a 1-0 win at MK Dons a fortnight ago but the atmosphere at a packed SoL will be a new experience for a lot of these lads.

Sunderland Unveil New Signing Jermain Defoe
Jermain Defoe scored 37 in 93 during his first spell with Sunderland.
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

MC: Doncaster themselves changed managers before the New Year, how has Gary McSheffrey been getting on so far?

PG: His record of two wins and nine defeats does not make good reading but there have been some green shoots.

A more direct style and some new attacking additions have at least given Rovers a bit more goal threat, which was seriously lacking under Richie Wellens.

A woeful performance in Tuesday’s 5-0 home defeat to rivals Rotherham has put him on the back foot with some fans, though. A case of one step forward, two back.

MC: Rovers are currently 11 points from safety and sit bottom of League One - do fans have any hope of survival?

PG: Not really, no. The majority have resigned themselves to relegation.

McSheffrey was able to bring in eight players during January but defeats to Morecambe and Fleetwood at the start of the month have left them with a mountain to climb.

Between now and May the manager really needs to steady the ship and lay some foundations for next season.

MC: Ollie Younger joined Doncaster from Sunderland in January, how has he performed so far?

PG: He made a Stan Varga-like debut in the win at MK Dons, slotting in seamlessly, putting his body on the line to help secure a backs to the wall 1-0 victory and finishing the game with a Terry Butcher-style headband for good measure.

The move was all about getting games under his belt and he’s been thrown in at the deep end at Doncaster.

Sunderland v Oldham Athletic - EFL Trophy
Ollie Younger left Sunderland to join Doncaster in January, having made one league appearance.
Photo by Eddie Garvey/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

MC: Aside from Younger, what sort of impact have Rovers’ other January recruits made?

PG: It’s too early to tell really. Josh Martin, a winger on loan from Norwich City, has been the one to really catch the eye.

He looks very comfortable on the ball and capable of making things happen in the final third.

Adam Clayton, on paper, is exactly the sort of ‘been there, done it’ type of player they have lacked but he looked woefully short of match fitness against Rotherham.

MC: Doncaster has won only one of their 14 away matches in League One this season, why do you think the club is struggling so much on their travels?

PG: The last 12 months have been a struggle, home and away. It’s been a shambles to be honest and the scale and speed of the regression from promotion contenders to relegation certainties has been frightening.

A very short-sighted, short term approach to recruitment has well and truly caught up with the club.

Injuries to some key men haven’t helped but they’ve paid the price this season for yet another big turnover of players at the same time as relying on too many young lads with very little EFL experience.

The spine of the team is very weak and that has been brutally exposed away from home.

MC: Which 11 players do you think McSheffrey will select and what style of play can Sunderland expect to encounter?

PG: McSheffrey tried to match up Rotherham’s 3-5-2 last time out in an attempt to contain them and it backfired spectacularly.

I’d expect him to revert to a 4-3-3/4-5-1 with a view to pressing Sunderland as best as possible and looking to break quickly on them.

They’ll look to get it forward quickly, turn Sunderland around and compete for second balls. It’ll be a stronger team than the one Sunderland faced in the reverse fixture - the eleven they put out that day would struggle in the National League.

Possible: Jones (GK), Knoyle, Olowu, Younger, Jackson, Smith, Galbraith, Rowe, Martin, Dodoo, Odubeko.

MC: Sunderland beat Doncaster 3-0 earlier this season, what is your prediction for the final score?

PG: A lot of Rovers fans would actually take another 3-0 Sunderland win here just to avoid another total humiliation.

That’s how bad things have got. It’s hard to see anything other than a convincing home win. 3-0.


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