Championship Analysis – Doncaster off the mark under the new Dean Saunders regime

Doncaster Rovers beat Crystal Palace 1-0 on Saturday to gain their first victory since March 1st, bringing relief around the Keepmoat Stadium. It has been a hectic week for all associated with the club. On Wednesday Sean O’Driscoll was given the dreaded vote of confidence by Chairman John Ryan, and the long-serving manager duly found himself out of a job 24 hours later and replaced by former Wales international Dean Saunders.

47-year-old Saunders is an intriguing appointment. Since hanging his boots up 10 years ago, the former Liverpool and Aston Villa star has slowly risen through the managerial ranks, coaching behind the scenes at Blackburn and Newcastle, before being appointed assistant to Wales Coach John Toshack in 2007 and then taking full charge of Wrexham the following year. He arrives at Doncaster in good shape after leaving the Welsh side in the promotion places in the Blue Square Bet Premier.

He may have to wait a while to completely win over the Donny fans, however, who are used to watching a free-flowing and expansive style of football under O’Driscoll. Before Saturday’s game, he told the BBC: We will have to fight our way out of the situation we’re in, knock the stuffing out of teams. The football comes after that.

Saturday was certainly a good start, and a win over Hull on Tuesday evening could be enough to lift the club out of the relegation zone.

At the other end of the table, Brighton missed the chance to go top of the Championship overnight on Friday, and ended the weekend fifth after fighting out a 3-3 draw with Leeds. Despite both clubs hosting Premier League opposition in the Carling Cup during midweek, neither looked jaded in what was a scintillating encounter, though both will be disappointed to drop points in what was a see-saw match.

Southampton and Middlesbrough remain in the top two positions despite both being held to draws. The Saints had to come from behind to snatch a point against a Burnley side who looked far stronger than their 21st place position suggested, while a nervy Boro maintained their unbeaten start to the season despite living dangerously against a determined Ipswich outfit who have taken seven points from a possible 12 since their 7-1 hammering at Peterborough in August.

Derby’s slick start to the season continued, with the Rams rising to third and level on points with Middlesbrough after an impressive 3-0 win over Millwall, who have now gone six league games without a win.

It was a game that could easily have been a banana skin for the Rams after celebrating the highs of their unlikely victory over bitter rivals Nottingham Forest last week, but midfielder Craig Bryson hailed the team’s mental attitude, telling Derby’s Official Website: “There was no sign of a ‘come down’ from the Forest game and everyone’s buzzing. For the whole week we focused on the Millwall game and I think the performance showed how well we prepare for games.

West Ham climbed to fourth after a 1-0 win over Peterborough, while in Sunday’s game, Cardiff and Leicester’s second meeting in four days ended goalless.

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