Paul Goodwin: Butler’s absence could make life difficult against the Blades

Andy Butler
Andy Butler

A penny for Andy Butler’s thoughts on Saturday.

This is just the sort of blood and thunder local derby the no-nonsense defender, on-loan at Doncaster from Sheffield United, would relish.

He would love nothing more than to be out there this weekend, in the colours of either team.

One thing is for sure, his enforced absence - due to the terms of his loan deal - will unquestionably hit his hometown club much harder than the one he is contracted to.

Butler’s instant impression on Doncaster’s backline, where he has proven to be a calming influence as well as adding some much-needed physicality, has been key to Rovers’ rugged displays against MK Dons and Bradford City.

He gets in where it hurts, he puts his body on the line, and he constantly communicates with his young defensive colleagues.

In short, he is exactly what Doncaster have been lacking in the absence of skipper Rob Jones - and his enforced withdrawal this weekend hands the Blades a real opportunity of taking advantage of a Rovers defensive reshuffle.

Doncaster have been notably harder to play against with Butler commanding operations from the back, and Rovers will rely not just upon his likely replacement Jamie McCombe stepping up to plate, but also Paul Keegan in providing the back four with a solid defensive shield.

History is certainly on Rovers’ side this weekend.

They have not lost any of the last seven meetings between these sides, five of which have ended in draws.

But for Doncaster to maintain their impressive recent record against the Blades they will have to show the same sort of discipline and doggedness as they have done in the last two games - and they will have to do that for the full game.

Two of the last three meetings between these teams have ended 2-2, and on both occasions United have fought back from 2-0 down with goals in the dying moments of the game.

In those games the Blades have shown a real hunger and desire not to be beaten - and the side that really digs in the most on Saturday will again come out on top.