DONCASTER Rovers boss Dean Saunders admits that he has a bit of a soft spot for Sheffield United, but that won’t stop him sending his charges out to try and end the Blades’ unbeaten start to the season in tonight’s League One derby at Bramall Lane.
“A point wouldn’t be a bad result, but we’ll be going there looking for three,” he said yesterday.
“I want us to go over there and make a good fist of it. They are the biggest club in League One by a mile and I’m sure there’ll be over 20,000 there tonight.”
Saunders said that Saturday’s 2-1 win at Colchester had helped lift spirits after successive league defeats.
“I was really pleased with the result; we needed a win there because it means that we have now made a good start,” he said. “Had we lost it would have been a so-so start.
“We’ve won five out of seven league and cup games and I can’t ask for anything more with a new team and a new group of players. It has allowed me some breathing space to put all the little things in place and I’m certain we’ll get better the longer the season goes on.
“I’m not big on stats, but we are top of the pass completion league which I’m surprised about with having a new group of players. But we are keeping the ball well and moving it about well and we are scoring goals.
“I just think that the defenders I’ve brought in enabled me to change my policy. Last season I was thinking of sitting back in some games but I felt that I couldn’t do that because whenever the ball came into the box we were conceding goals so I thought the best way to play at times was to keep the ball as far as we could from goal.
“But the players we’ve got in the team now are brave and put their head to the ball and it has made a big difference to my approach. Both Rob Jones and Jamie McCombe are honest lads and my recruitment policy has been to try and sign players who are honest and who are pleased and proud to play for Doncaster Rovers and have some pride in their performance.
“Some of the new lads I’ve brought in don’t sleep at the weekend if they don’t play well on a Saturday. I don’t want players here who are just picking up their wages and just going through the motions.”
Saunders says he is hoping to have striker Billy Paynter available tonight after he left him out of Saturday’s game at Colchester as a precaution after he felt a twinge in his thigh in training on Friday.
“I think he’ll be fit,” said Saunders. “I’m sure he’d like to be playing against his old manager.”
Whether Saunders decides to change a winning team will not be evident until the respective line-ups are announced.
If Paynter comes into the reckoning, only veteran keeper Neil Sullivan, who injured his calf in the warm-up on Saturday, will be missing.
Saunders was last night looking into the possibility of recalling last season’s youth team keeper Jon Maxted from his loan at Goole Town as cover for Gary Woods. But if that fails he admits he may be forced to look at bringing in a loan keeper and has drawn up a list which includes Sheffield Wednesday’s Nicky Weaver.
Were Weaver to feature he would add to the former Owls contingent in the Rovers’ squad, which already contains Jones and Tommy Spurr. David Cotterill and James Harper, likely to start on the bench, have both previously played for United.