BOTH Doncaster Rovers and Chesterfeld, who meet in a Northern Section second round tie at the Keepmoat Stadium tonight, know what it’s like to lift the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
Rovers beat Bristol Rovers 3-2 in extra-time in the 2006-07 final at the Millennium Stadium, while the Spireites won the trophy at Wembley Stadium last season, beating Swindon Town 2-0 last March.
They will be keen to defend the trophy, as were Rovers, but Spireites’ skipper Sam Hird - a doubtful starter tonight - knows from personal experience that is easier said than done.
Hird, who left the South Yorkshire club during theclose-season, was a member of the Doncaster side (beaten on penalties in the end) which made a controversial exit in their third round tie against Grimsby Town at Blundell Park the following season.
Although the league remains the No 1 priority at the club this season, midfielder Paul Keegan says Rovers will be giving the JP Trophy their best shot.
“It’s a cup competition and if we were to win any trophy this season we’d be happy,” he told The Star. “We’ll be going into tonight’s match with every intention of trying to win the game and to do well in the competition.”
The days when a manager could field virtually a reserve side in the competition are long gone and no fewer than seven of the team which started in the club’s last game have to start tonight.
“It can be tough on those players who have played a lot of games, but the ruling gives the competition more credibility,” said Keegan.
Despite the ruling, both sides are likely to take the opportunity to give some of their bench players a run out.
“I’m sure that any players who have not been starting regularly will be looking to try to use the game to try and press their claims,” said Keegan.
Although the Spireites, who parted company with manager John Sheridan earlier in the season, have not made the best of starts to their League Two campaign, they have already beaten one League One side (Oldham) in the competition.
“They won the trophy last year and I’m sure that they were very proud and happy to win it and they’ll be coming here looking to defend it,” said Keegan. “Sam Hird will be wanting to do well on his return to the Keepmoat Stadium, should he play.
“I’m sure that Sam will get a good reception from the fans. He was a great player during his time at the club and I hear he’s doing well down at Chesterfield.
“I’m sure it will be a proud moment for him to come back here as the Chesterfield captain and he’ll want to show everyone what he is about and how good he is
Rovers go into tonight’s game unbeaten in cup football at home this season having beaten York and Hull City in the Capital One Cup. They also go into the game on the back of a 1-0 League One win over Shrewsbury Town on Saturday.
“It was game of two halves,” said Keegan. “I think we did well in the first half and could have been more than one-up. The danger was that being only 1-0 up that they would come back into the game and they put us under an awful lot of pressure towards the end, but I though that we defended very well.”