Like everyone else I'm very nervous about this game but if we can win it, it'll be a major step on the road to promotion. McGeady and McGeouch won't be involved but the great news is that Maguire will be in the squad and no doubt raring to go. I hope Catts will play some part too to add some much needed stability to the heart of the team. Baldwin and Flanagan have of course been much maligned since Coventry repeatedly sliced through us last Saturday and there's every chance that Dunne will be given a game today. Doncaster will be trying to consolidate their play-off place and have won their last four games so it's going to be difficult, while their top-scorer Marquis is back from injury. If it was up to me, I'd play this match at Doncaster as the SoL gives such a boost to away teams while putting pressure on us. Barnsley are at home to Shrewsbury and would be expected to win but Portsmouth are away to Burton and will have their hands full there. Charlton are also breathing down our necks and they're away at Oxford. Anyway, we'll know their results by the time we kick off this afternoon. I really hope I'm wrong but I think it's going to be a draw and my match prediction is 1-1.
I got to my favourite subterranean bar just off Oxford Street at 3.30 and my mate the barman had told me he'd definitely put the match on for me. On checking the scores I was pleased to see that Charlton had lost to Oxford but not so happy that Barnsley and Portsmouth were both 1-0 up. Next thing Shrewsbury had got one back against Barnsley and the sun shone a little brighter. It was clearly going to provide an interesting prelude to the main event. Sure enough, Burton equalized against Portsmouth just after the break but soon Barnsley went head again. I got the team news at 4.30 and not surprisingly there were a number of changes with Dunne and Ozturk replacing Baldwin and Flanagan (Baldwin was nowhere to be seen). My heart sank a bit when I saw Ozturk's name but could he really be worse than the other two have been recently? Also he'd redeemed himself a bit after his initial heart-stopping moments and while clearly lacking finesse, he's a big strong lad who won't wimp out. I was happy to see Catts back and delighted to see McGeady starting as I'd thought he was a definite no-no. Maguire was on the bench but I felt sure we'd be seeing him. Grigg was also on the bench as was Gooch but Wyke was in there. I felt uplifted by what I'd seen so I felt it was time to face the latest scores again – no change with around a quarter of an hour to go but there was an awful sting in the tail when Portsmouth got a winner two minutes into stoppage-time. Ah well, we'd just have to make sure we won...
We were quickly out of the traps and gave Doncaster little space in the opening stages but they looked like big lads and I knew we'd have difficulty battling with them. Anyway, we went ahead in the seventh minute when Wyke headed down a McGeady cross from the left and the unmarked Morgan had plenty of time to whack it into the bottom left corner. Of course we needed a second and we were going for it. A decent long-distance shot from O'Nien wasn't far off target and Doncaster looked vulnerable so I reckoned we'd get another before too long. There was no commentary on the TV and nobody else was watching except me so it had a bit of an other-worldly feeling about it. Doncaster started to come back into it about twenty minutes in and McLaughlin was fouled as Whiteman had a dangerous-looking shot on target. They were definitely having more of the attacking play but thankfully our defence was looking solid enough. Around the half-hour mark we started to buzz again and it was Wyke who soon got our second when he tapped in following a looping Dunne header from a Power cross. Goal difference could well be a factor so we needed to get as many goals as we could and I was sure there'd be more goals in the game. Doncaster fought back in the dying minutes of the half and after a Power foul near the right angle of our box Andrew's free-kick bounced back off the right post and the whistle went to send us in very happy. All we had to do was win and we were winning 2-0 so I was well pleased.
We started the second period very positively, soon winning a corner and then Oviedo went on a long run down the left before hitting their right post with a low shot. We escaped a very dodgy back-pass, though, when McLaughlin sold Marquis a dummy and cleared the danger. With thirty minutes to go the win was looking likely as we were doing most of the pressing and looked secure enough at the back but I certainly wasn't taking anything for granted as Doncaster showed that they could break quickly, especially Wilks. Speaking of whom, Catts got his customary yellow card for fouling him just after I'd written that but McLaughlin plucked the resultant free-kick from the air and we moved on. Twenty minutes to go and we hadn't made any changes but surely it couldn't be long. Next thing Gooch replaced McGeady, who'd played a significant role as usual. Shortly afterwards Grigg came on for Wyke, who received a deserved ovation after scoring one and laying on another. Ten minutes to go and Doncaster were really making a game of it but we continued to defend well. Honeyman got himself in some argy-bargy with Andrew, for which the latter was booked, and he really should try to cool his temper. Three minutes, two, one... during which Leadbitter replaced Power and then into stoppage-time, an awful lot of it, till finally the whistle went.
We haven't had an easy match all season and this was no exception but we've won and deservedly so. We did what we had to do with a reshuffled side and if we continue to win, we'll be fine. We've still got Maguire in our pocket and I think we'll beat Peterborough on Monday.