Ahead of this week’s promotion decider in League One between Brentford and Doncaster Rovers, two fans from each club share their views going into this match, which sees the team with the best home form hosting the team with the best away form.
1. Which team do you think will be considered the favorites for this match, considering the Rovers terrific away form, the Bees’ equally exceptional home form and the fact that Brentford need to win to secure promotion whereas Donny can settle for the draw?
Dan Long (Brentford): That’s very tough. Both clubs have had an excellent campaign, Doncaster’s more inevitable than ours but credit to them for getting straight back in contention after relegation last season. Personally, I would see Doncaster as favourites for the game. They have it all to lose if they don’t at least achieve a draw and I think they will be massively up for it. They sold out their ticket allocation very quickly and they are a big team seemingly ready for promotion.
I think the underdog status will suit Brentford very well. We have come from behind to win on numerous occasions this season and I think the element of surprise may unsettle the visitors. The previous tie between the two saw Brentford dominate possession yet lose 2-1 and they will have to make sure they take their chances if they want to beat a strong Doncaster team on Saturday.
Lee Croft (Doncaster): I think most will see us as favorites; we go into the game having accumulated more points over 45 games than Brentford and the majority of them coming from away games. It’s funny actually, because we are usually the underdogs in situations like this and I’m not sure if being the favorites for this one is a good or bad thing.
2. Just how big a game is this for your club?
DL: Words cannot describe how big a game this is for our club. It is the most realistic chance of Championship football we have had since 2006 and I think most would say the quality and mentality of the team is far superior to Martin Allen’s in 2006. Having lost in the play-offs no less than SIX times since 1991, we are desperate for a positive result on Saturday.
LC: This is our tenth season in the Football League, and in that ten seasons we have won the League Two championship, the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and the League One play-offs in 2007/08. We spent four years back in the Championship after 50 years and relegation last season was probably inevitable. That said I really want to see us back in the Championship, I think it will really deflate the club if we cannot achieve promotion, even more so considering we have been at the top of the table for the last eight games prior to last week.
3. Who has been your best player of the season so far?
DL: There have been so many stand-out performers this season; Tony Craig and Harlee Dean have been solid at the back, Simon Moore has been incredible in goal and Adam Forshaw has shown, time and time again, why he is too good for this level of football. But for me it has to be Clayton Donaldson. So far he has scored 22 goals, double his total for the whole of the last campaign, and finally showed Bees fans his full potential. Although the goal against Portsmouth was his first for six matches, he has continuously managed to pop with important goals and dealt with the tragic death of his mother like a true professional; a gentleman on and off the pitch.
LC: Chris Brown, of the three strikers (Brown, Paynter and Hume) Brown has scored the least but his work rate and ability to hold up the ball and bring others into play is second to none. He has scored some very nice goals this season and he won’t stop running the length of the pitch for the full 90. Our Captain Rob Jones is a close second though, the giant of a centre back and commander of the team has shown his resilience in his no-nonsense style defending and even managing to bag himself a few goals this season.
4. Which result this season made you think, “You know, we might actually do this!”
DL: There have been some amazing games this season, but it would have to be the 3-2 win against Portsmouth. They proved a very tough side to break down and showed their attacking threat with two great goals and equally impressive build up play. But the Griffin Park faithful sang their hearts out and the passion paid off when Bradley Wright-Phillips equalised five minutes from time. Just one minute later, Clayton Donaldson’s lofted finish sent the crowd into raptures. In my 10 years as a Brentford supporter, I can honestly say I’ve never experienced an atmosphere like that; going from settling for a play-off place to being in contention for automatic promotion in two minutes sums up our season in one word, crazy!
LC: The result away at Crewe a couple of weeks back, we were a goal down and weren’t playing great, by no means we were poor but we just didn’t look like a team at the top of the table. However when Paynter was subbed on two quick goals put us in the lead and we held on with a brilliant away crowd to cheer the boys home. Top of the table and two games to go put Doncaster into party mode, something we are hoping Brentford don’t end this coming Saturday.
5. What type of game are you expecting?
DL: I reckon it will be very tight. I would expect Doncaster to be highly defensive and to play for the draw but if a chance arises, I would say they would give everything they have in attack to try and nick a win. We have everything to play for and will go for all out attack. Donaldson has said he is ready to ‘explode’ on Saturday and with any luck, he can convert that energy into goals and take us up.
LC: Brentford have to win, we don’t. That will be key here. Brentford have to attack us, they have to put us on the back foot leaving us the option of defending for most of the game and the counter attack our only chance of scoring. That is what we have done all season, that is where Doncaster Rovers have been most comfortable and that type of game won us all three points at both Bournemouth and Tranmere and why we have the best away record in the Football League. I think it will be tight, but I am confident that the game will suit the Rovers.
6. What threats does your team possess?
DL: Donaldson is back from suspension, there are no major injury concerns and the stadium will be rocking. Bradley Wright-Phillips is on form and only Tony Craig is suspended. The biggest weapon we have is the crowd; we will have over 10,000 home fans and the players have previously admitted that loud support contributes to the way the game will be played. Saturday is no exception.
LC: Our biggest threat at the minute is probably our midfield. John Llundstram and Dean Furman are both on loan at the Rovers from Everton and Oldham respectively. Both centre-midfielders know how to pass the ball and have shown they have an eye for goal and can dictate the play when needs be: Couple that with a back-line and strike force where the majority of players are over 6”2, our biggest threat is our physical presence and a deadly midfield.
7. What do you know about the opponents, and how they will approach the game on Saturday?
DL: When I think of Doncaster, I immediately think of a Championship team. They should not be in League One and they have proved that with their league position this season. Some of the players they have are of a Championship quality and although the loss against Notts County last week came as a big surprise, I would expect that they will be fully confident it will spur them on that they can just play for a draw on Saturday.
LC: When Brentford visited the Keepmoat they played us off the park, if they had a decent finisher, it might have been a cricket score. However we managed to withstand most of the pressure and our only two shots on target in the second half were just enough to see us take the points. But if that is how Brentford play away from home (where their form is – without trying to sound offensive – not above average) then I am a little frightened to think how good they will be at home where they have only lost twice. Brentford will surely be looking to the home crowd to make a great atmosphere that they hope their team can rise to.
8. Did you know that promotion would come down to the final game, or was promotion never an expectation for you this season?
DL: I think I can speak on behalf of many fans in saying that although the dream was in the back of my mind, I never expected that it would become a reality. History shows that we have always been there or thereabouts but never quite had the luck needed to take us up.
LC: At the beginning of the season all I wanted was stability and I said anywhere in the top 10 would be a success. However, when you have been at top of the table in the latter stages of the season you do hope the team can hang on and win promotion. I had a feeling it may come down to the final game this season, but only because of the amount of games in hand the teams below us had.
9. Just how nervous are you about Saturday?
DL: Incredibly nervous because of the past (play-offs) but quietly confident. I’ve experienced a promotion with Brentford back in 2009 and I know how brilliant that feeling is. I hope all the times this season I thought I was going to have a heart attack have been worth it and this can be our year!
LC: I’m nervous, but I know that if we play to our advantages, Brentford will not know what hit them. If it is anything like the majority of our away games this season Brentford will have more of the ball, and probably more chances but are the most efficient team in the division in terms of converting chances and that could be the key difference come 5pm Saturday.
10: Finally, what do you think the score will be?
DL: It’s going to be interesting to see how it pans out. I think Doncaster will give it a good go and score first but I think the fans will play a big part and we will claw it back in the end. I’m going for 2-1 to us.
LC: I am struggling to predict it, but I have to go for an entertaining 2-2 draw, with us probably scoring late on as we have done all season. I wish Brentford all the luck in the future after 5pm, as a trust owned club I admire what they are trying to achieve.