THE jury might still be out on whether Doncaster Rovers are good enough to win their battle against relegation from the Championship, but centre-back Shelton Martis put a good case for the defence this week.
“Obviously we didn’t make the best of starts picking up just one point from our first seven games,” said the Dutch-born defender. “But we’ve kicked on from there and we should probably have more points that we have now.
“Slowly but surely we are starting to become a team which is hard to beat - particularly at home.
“March is going to be a very tough month with nine games in total but I am looking forward to it only having just come back into the team after being out injured for a couple of months.”
Martis limped off with a groin injury in the 2-0 defeat at Oakwell in mid-November and didn’t return to action until the recent home game against Peterborough United where he partnered Habib Baye for the first time.
“It takes time to build up an understanding but we spoke about how we wanted to play before the game and I think the partnership worked quite well on the day,” he said.
“With games coming thick and fast this month there is obviously a lot of pressure on all teams because this is where the run-in starts.
“But at least you know what you are playing for and what you need to achieve.
“I don’t look at how many games we need to win; I’m just looking for us to get as many points as possible between now and the end of the season and hopefully we’ll pick up enough to stay up.
“Even though we only have picked up one point from our last three games we are still hanging on to most of the teams just above us and that’s a good thing because it means that if we can put a run of two or three games together, depending on other results, we could be out of the bottom three.
“Nottingham Forest have shown that it can be done and it looks like they’ve started to turn things around. But when you look at their squad it’s surprising to see them down there in any case. They’ve obviously had their problems but I’m not quite sure what’s gone wrong down there.
“People are saying the Forest game is a real six-pointer with them just being above the relegation zone. Whilst I think every game between now and the end of the season is going to be vital, what we don’t want to see happen tonight is for them to beat us because it would mean that they were nine points in front of us.”
There will be a familiar figure in the dug-out at the City Ground tonight, former Rovers’ boss Sean O’Driscoll.
Axed by Rovers in September, O’Driscoll joined Forest as first-team coach until the end of the season in January and will have been able to supply the Nottingham players with much ‘inside’ information on a number of Doncaster players including Martis, who he signed from West Bromwich Albion.
“I was thinking of giving him a ring in the build-up and asking him not to mention any of my weakness’s in their team talks,” joked the centre-back.
“But while he knows a lot about a number of our players he doesn’t know what we do under Dean Saunders on a daily basis. The way we train and the way we want to play, which is a little bit different to when he was in charge.
“We are still trying to play football but we try to get the ball into the box a bit quicker.
“The emphasis is more on getting the points that we need and as soon as that happens then we can start to play how we want to play.”
Teams and ref
FOREST (possible): Camp, Gunter, Wooton, Lync, Elokobi, McCleary, Greening, Geudioura, Reid, Blackstock, Tudgay (4-4-2).
ROVERS (possible): Ikeme, Chimbonda, Beye, Martis, Spurr, Coppinger, Gillett/Oster, Barnes, Hayter, Bagayoko, Diouf. (4-3-3).
MICHAEL JONES (Chester): Had charge of Fulham’s 5-0 win over Wolves at the weekend and has dished out 91 yellow and eight red cards in 23 games this season. He booked six players and sent one off in his last Championship game - the East London derby between West Ham and Millwall last month. Took the big Premier League Manchester City-Liverpool clash at the start of the year.
One to watch
Marcus Tudgay, the former Sheffield Wednesday striker, who scored 50 goals in just over 200 appearances for the Owls, joined Forest on loan from the South Yorkshire side in November 2010, scoring three goals in his first two games. He joined Forest, who were beaten to his signature by Derby County in his junior days, on a permanent deal the following January.
The 29 year-old finished last season with seven goals to his name, and has six under his belt this term.
Forest, who won 1-0 at the Keepmoat in August, will be looking to record a rare double in recent years over Rovers. Last season the teams drew 0-0 at the City Ground after sharing the spoils at the Keepmoat Stadium. Rovers had to settle for a Bill Sharp consolation when going down 4-1 at the City Ground in the 2009-10 season. He scored the only goal of the game in the return. Rovers posted a superb 4-2 win at the City Ground on Boxing Day the previous season with a Paul Heffernan brace. That followed another 0-0 draw at the Keepmoat. Rovers had drawn 0-0 at the City Ground the previous season, when both were promoted from League One, with a rare Gareth Owen goal securing Rovers a one-goal victory in the return. Rovers beat Forest 1-0 in the last ever game played at Belle Vue. They also won 1-0 at the City Ground thanks to a Brian Stock goal.