DONCASTER midfielder John Oster is backing Rovers to make full use of their last home game before two tough away fixtures.
Relegation-threatened Rovers host Millwall at the Keepmoat Stadium tonight in the last of their three home fixtures ahead of away trips to Southampton and Crystal Palace.
And Oster, back to full fitness after an operation for a neck injury, has stressed the importance of impressing against the Lions before the club take to the road to try and pick up points.
“Every game is a must-win, I don’t think there’s any one game that you can single out,” said Oster. “But you’d like to think you can get your points in your home games.
“It was disappointing we couldn’t grab an equaliser [against Derby County in a 2-1 defeat on Saturday] because our performances have been good of late.
“It’s a shame we let that type of performance creep up on us. We had a good result against Reading, but we’d have liked to have built on that against Derby
“After Tuesday night we’ve got a couple of difficult away matches so who knows what’s in store at those matches.
“It’s difficult at the minute, but we like to look at our home games and hopefully they’re the ones that can get us the points.
“We’ve been improving steadily, but Saturday was just one of those little hiccups along the way. Hopefully we can iron out this mistake for the visit of Millwall.”
Former Everton and Sunderland playmaker Oster featured as a second half substitute in Saturday’s defeat to the Rams, a loss which ended an impressive five-game unbeaten run for Rovers who slipped to second from bottom in the Championship.
And with just 10 games remaining in the league campaign, including tonight’s visit of the Lions, 33-year-old Oster is hoping he can do everything he can to help the team avoid the dreaded drop.
“I’m fine now, but I’ve not been able to get in the starting XI because the lads have been playing well,” added Oster.
“I had a neck injury. One of the nerves in my neck was being pressed on by a bone in my vertebrae. The surgeon went in, trimmed it away and obviously fused the bones together. There’s a little plate in place now, so fingers crossed I should be ok now.
“It didn’t worry me though because the surgeon re-assured me it was a fairly straightforward operation.
“That type of injury mostly occurs in rugby, it’s like a whiplash injury they can get. For me it was degenerative, it comes on over time and it always going to be there for me.
“There’s nothing you can do, but I had the operation which means I’m back for the rest of the season.
“The manager’s been tinkering trying to get the right formation. The players have stuck in set positions to sustain a decent run of games and results..
“We’ve had a settled team and the lads have done quite well, even though we drew four and won out of our last five games, but it’s the performances which have been pleasing and encouraging.”
However there have been concerns raised about the state of the Keepmoat pitch which many of the players believe is not conducive to playing the type of trademark flowing football Rovers like to play.
Oster admitted: “ It looks alright from afar, but it’s not great when you get out there.
“It’s quite bobbly. Once you’ve been out there for the warm-up and then played on it for 10 minutes of a match it just cuts up quite badly. It’s a bit lively to say the least.
He joked: “Whoever [us or Millwall] can keep the ball in the air the longest will be the best team on the night!”
Teams and ref
ROVERS (possible): Ikeme; Chimbonda, Beye, Hird, Spurr; coppinger, Barnes, Gillett, Bennett; Diouf, Piquionne.
MILLWALL: Taylor; Dunne, Robinson, Ward, Smith; Bouazza, Henry, Abdou, Wright; Henderson, Keogh.
STUART ATWELL (Warwickshire): The official has dished out 81 bookings and four red cards in 23 matches this term. He came under-fire after sending off Sheffield-born defender Gary Cahill in Bolton Wanderers 3-0 loss at Tottenham.
One to watch
Darius Henderson has been a key figure for Millwall this season. It is in contrast to last season at Sheffield United which didn’t start for him until March due to a knee injury. He has 17 Championship goals in addition to providing a physical presence up front
Dean Saunders would love the sort of scoreline Rovers got the last time Millwall ventured into the Keepmoat. That was November last season and Rovers won 2-1 with goals from James Hayter and David Healy on Northern Ireland international Healy’s debut on loan from Sunderland.