Character Barnes can be good signing for Rovers

Likeable: Giles Barnes, the former West Brom player who has signed for Rovers.               Picture: Steve Parkin
Likeable: Giles Barnes, the former West Brom player who has signed for Rovers. Picture: Steve Parkin
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THURSDAY: I was pleased to learn that Doncaster Rovers had signed former West Bromwich Albion star Giles Barnes on an initial six-month contract.

I had been impressed by Barnes, who had only trained with the squad once, in the club’s last pre-season warm-up game at Grimsby.

Barnes also came across as a likeable character when I interviewed him that afternooon and I’m sure that he will fit in both on and off the pitch,

The Dons’ hopes of finishing second in Championship One received a setback when Keighley Cougars beat leaders Swinton 20-18 at the Willows.

Cougars, who had taken over second spot from the Dons at the weekend on points difference following their 34-6 victory over Tony Miller’s side at Cougar Park at the weekend, are now effectively four points clear of the Dons and Workington with just three games to play.

I feel that Cougars are currently the best team in the division and will preset a formidable hurdle for the Dons to overcome in the play-offs which get under way early next month. They look a strong unit with no obvious weak spots.

FRIDAY: I got my first look at Doncaster Knights’ new-look squad in their first pre-season game of the season against Hull at Castle Park.

The gulf in clash between the Championship side and the visitors was quickly evident with Knights looking much bigger, stronger and faster than the Humberside outfit.

Knights, as is their intention under new director of rugby Brett Davey this season, served up some eye-pleasing rugby.

The quality of their support play also impressed me as they raced to a 49-0 interval lead.

New signing Michael Keating has a tough act to follow in Matty Williams, who moved to Bristol in the summer, but he wasted no time in winning over the knowledgable Knights’ fans by grabbing a first half hat-trick.

I was also impressed by full-back David McIlwaine. He too has a tough act to follow in Steve McColl, but on first impression he will do well.

Fly-half Mike Whitehead gave a near-perfect kicking display, converting eight of the nine tries - a number of which were from wide out. He even drop kicked a conversion.

I watched the game from the gantry, which I discovered affords a much better view of the game than the press box due to the fact that it is more central.

I got chatting to the club’s match day announcer and part-time DJ, Lee Killworth, about good tunes for the Knights to run out to and at the end of the match if they had won.

Among the songs I suggested was Chris de Burgh’s High On Emotion. I was pleasantly surprised that Lee not only knew the song - most people in this country are probably only familiar with Chris’s 1986 hit Lady In Red and not his much rockier material- but that he thought it was a great song.

Lee played the song at the end of the game so anyone wondering what song it was now know and also the reason behind him playing it.

The pitch looked in superb condition, but when I congratulated assistant groundsman Lee Blagden after the game he admitted that it had needed a lot of watering in the days leading up the game.

SATURDAY: The game at Brighton marked the start of what is scheduled to be my last full season covering Doncaster Rovers. It was a long trip down to Sussex and a long day, but I came away very impressed with Brighton’s new £90m stadium,

The media facilities, in particular, were superb.

The Football Focus team were there and Robbie Savage was kind enough to open a door for me.

Rovers looked good in the first half and but for an injury to Billy Sharp would probably have gone on to win the game. I certainly think they deserved better than the late 2-1 defeat.

MONDAY: There wasn’t much good news regarding Sharp and James Hayter, also carried off at Brighton.