"And that sweet city with her dreaming spires,
She needs not June for beauty’s heightening"
(“Thyrsis” - Matthew Arnold)
IF there was any pressure on the players to maintain their League One unbeaten run, Doncaster Rovers removed it last Saturday in no uncertain terms. So we now travel to The Kassam Stadium to face a Karl Robinson side apparently struggling in the relegation zone with only one win in their 8 games, and a goal difference of -9 to boot. A relatively easy 3 points, you might think? Not necessarily - it’s becoming evident that although a very small number of clubs will be virtually un-catchable at either end of the table, the majority will provide strong opposition particularly on their own turf. There is a further factor which may affect this game, which is that next Tuesday United are at home to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup (remember that?) - and players may well be (a) busting a gut to cement their place, or (b) playing it safe to avoid injury. Either way, the fixture may well be a complicating thought! United’s League One form:-
18 Aug Portsmouth (A) Lost 4-1
21 Aug Accrington Stanley (H) Lost 2-3
25 Aug Burton Albion (H) Won 3-1
1 Sep Sunderland (A) Drew 1-1
9 Sep Coventry City (H) Lost 1-2
15 Sep Wycombe Wanderers (A) Drew 0-0
Dean Keates has the task of motivating his squad back to the winning ways shown earlier this season. We are actually equal with Oxford United in one respect - both sides have only managed one clean sheet in League One games so far, and that must surely be a concern for a manager whose mantra was often quoted as “having a tight defence” …
Apart from the well-known members on the treatment table (Edwards, Roberts) Keates has a fully fit squad at his disposal, and it will be interesting to see which of the already-used systems he favours - it could be 4-2-4, 4-3-3, or even 4-1-4-1. Decisions, decisions…
Prediction? No Karl Robinson team can be assumed to be a pushover (taking the lead at Sunderland and holding on for a point tells you all you need to know on that score), and I would be satisfied with a clean sheet draw 0-0, but extremely happy with a 0-1 win (Cook back on song).