Deano bids for double over Palace

Flashback: Dean Saunders celebrates victory in his first game as Rovers boss against Palace in September.         PICTURE: steve taylor
Flashback: Dean Saunders celebrates victory in his first game as Rovers boss against Palace in September. PICTURE: steve taylor

Doncaster will pitch up at Selhurst Park looking to complete their first double of the season, against the club against which Dean Saunders started his Rovers reign.

Back in September, Saunders had barely been in the job 24 hours when he led the side to their first three points of the season. John Oster got the goal to kickstart Rovers’ campaign after they had picked up just one point from eight games.

History however doesn’t point to a Rovers win tomorrow – they have left Palace with all three points on just the one occasion, that was two seasons ago with a 3-0 win. Unfortunately every other visit there has resulted in a Palace victory and they will come up against a side that is still on the rebound from a recent cup exit.

The Eagles are without a win in the last five league games, but understandably had one eye on the Carling Cup, where they narrowly lost out to Cardiff City in the semi-finals. A two-legged affair saw both teams win 1-0 at home, before Cardiff won the penalty shoot-out 3-1 in the deciding second leg.

Had they gone on to reach Wembley, it is fair to suggest Palace may have been understrength for the visit of Saunders’ men, with the prospect of Liverpool at Wembley only a few weeks away.

However, since that defeat to Cardiff, they have picked up a point against both Brighton and Middlesbrough and are now firmly setting their sights on mounting a play-off push in the final third of the season.

Their Championship form has undoubtedly slipped since their cup exploits. Earlier in the season they were as high as third in the table, but as with any squad at that level, they could not sustain a fight on both fronts and inevitably saw league form suffer as a result. They currently sit 14th in the Championship, eight points off the play-offs.

Palace’s pacey forward Wilfred Zaha is certainly one of the ones to watch for Rovers’ backline. The 19-year old was recently the subject of a £7 million bid from Premier League outfit Bolton, but the Eagles held firm and resisted the temptation to cash in on their prize asset.

Another main threat on Saturday is likely to come from Darren Ambrose. The midfielder certainly brings a bit of luck to Dougie Freedman’s team; every time he has scored for Palace in the league they have never lost - not bad to say he has scored 24 times for them! This campaign, he has netted five including a stunner in the shock win at Manchester United in the Carling Cup quarter finals.

In fact, since that win at Old Trafford in November, Palace have not scored more than once in a match. Their top scorer this season is Glenn Murray. The former Brighton man joined on a free in the summer and has adapted well to life in South London, bagging six goals so far.

One to watch

Palace did well to hold on to the highly-rated Wilfred Zaha during the transfer window. But it only looks to be a case of when, not if, the exciting young attacking midfielder/striker moves up to the Premier League. The England Under-19 international, who also qualifies to play for the Ivory Coast, played 41 Championship games in his first full season last year, starting in 26 of them. Gifted with both pace and sublime skills, Zaha also packs a punch when shooting for goal and has five to his credit this season, just one behind joint-top scorers Jermaine Easter and Colin Murray.