He’s not El to play with, he’s class act

Holding up: El Hadji Diouf keeps Southampton's Jack Cork at bay at St Mary's.    PICTURE: CHRIS ISON/PA WIRE
Holding up: El Hadji Diouf keeps Southampton's Jack Cork at bay at St Mary's. PICTURE: CHRIS ISON/PA WIRE

DONCASTER Rovers manager Dean Saunders has rubbished suggestions El Hadji Diouf is a selfish player.

Some disgruntled fans of the South Yorkshire club have accused the Senegalese international striker on phone ins of being greedy in possession.

Indeed, a section of the club’s supporters cheered ironically after the two-time African Footballer of the Year was taken off late on against Millwall.

Speaking before the struggling Championship side’s clash with Crystal Palace tonight, Saunders said: “I don’t see that. All I see is that he has made five assists and scored six goals in 20 games.

“Considering he is not an out and out striker, I think he has done really well for us.

“If you count how many crosses he puts into the middle that we are never on the end of, he could have had even more assists.

“El Hadji is a class player and I have no concerns about him.”

After watching his side lose for the third match in succession at Southampton, Saunders claimed there was little to choose between the two sides. He concedes Rovers shot-shy attack have found it hard without Billy Sharp, who they sold to Southampton in the January transfer window, and it was the Sheffield-born ace who came back to haunt his old club, scoring two second-half goals on Saturday.

“We are not overly blessed with goal-scoring players, be it in midfield, centre-half or up front,” he acknowledged. “The top-scorer [Billy Sharp] left the club and it affects everybody including the fans.

Saunders is ordering his troops to tighten up from set plays and to cut out the individual errors threatening to condemn them to the drop.

He has hinted at rotating his squad this week as he bids to find a winning formula.

“I will see who looks jaded from Saturday and try and freshen things up,” he said. “I have to get players out on to the pitch who want to fight and be playing for Doncaster Rovers and who are going to fight to keep us in the league.

“I’m fighting, Brian [Carey, the assistant] and all the staff are fighting like mad doing what we can and the players have got to go out on the pitch and show the same desire and determination as if it is the last game of football they are ever going to play. That’s the way they have got to go out every week.”

Hot prospect Wilfried Zaha has served his three-match ban for his red card against Burnley earlier this month and the tricky winger is likely to be recalled to the starting line-up by Palace manager Dougie Freedman. The youngster could replace Sean Scannell, who picked up an ankle niggle in the defeat to Derby County last weekend.

Teams and ref

PALACE: Speroni; Clyne, McCarthy, Gardner, Parr; Zaha, Jedinak or O’Keefe, Dikgacoi, Ambrose; Murray, Martin (4-4-2).

ROVERS: Ikeme; Chimbonda, Lockwood or Hird, Beye, Ilunga; Coppinger, Gillett, Barnes, Oster or Bennett, Diouf, Piquionne (4-4-2).

Darren deadman (Cambridgeshire): He has dished out 179 bookings and 14 red cards in 42 matches this term.

One to watch

Set piece specialist Darren Ambrose is in a rich vein of form, having notched three goals in his last four appearances. He has struck nine times during the 2011/12 season, including a spectacular strike at Old Trafford to help dump Manchester United out of the Carling Cup.

History lesson

In Dean Saunders first match in charge, Rovers claimed a 1-0 victory after a 65th minute goal from John Oster. The South Yorkshire club, who are languishing in 23rd position in the Championship, are searching for their first double of the season.