Non-League Football: Rovers on a run away from past misfortune

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The Independent Online
DONCASTER ROVERS play hosts to Yeovil tomorrow knowing that although they are blazing a trail in the Nationwide Conference, their visitors are the only side in the top five divisions in English football to be unbeaten away from home this season.

Rovers' much-publicised descent to near oblivion seems to be over, and the torrid recent past should finally be laid to rest next week when Ken Richardson, the former owner, is due to sentenced for conspiring to burn down the inaptly named Belle Vue stadium in 1995.

"It's taken some time, given the circumstances we inherited, but we've made a start," Ian McMahon, the club's chief executive, said yesterday. "We're unbeaten in six games now, and have won the last three, including away games at Rushden & Diamonds and Kettering."

Likely to be in the Rovers starting line-up is the Spanish defender Ignacio Ybarra, once of Real Zaragoza and now on a month-to-month contract. Other new faces may be joining him soon, as the manager, Ian Snodin, has been given the go-ahead to target players in the English and Scottish leagues. "We only want players who are better than those we already have," McMahon said. "We are looking."

Elsewhere in the Conference, the leaders, Kettering, host Telford knowing that their teenaged striker, Ben Wright, is unlikely to be with them much longer. After recent trials with Bolton, Preston and Leeds, a spokesman said: "I think it's a matter of when he goes now, rather than if." In anticipation of Wright's departure, the club have signed on loan the 20- year-old Burnley striker, Philip Eastwood, with a view to the move being made permanent.

One of the weekend's key ties will see the Conference favourites, Cheltenham, play at Morecambe. Although second in the table, Cheltenham are just a point behind the leaders and have three games in hand. They will be heartened by the decision this week of their manager, Steve Cotterill, to stay at Whaddon Road rather than move to the Second Division club, Wycombe Wanderers, who asked him to become assistant to his former Wimbledon team-mate Lawrie Sanchez.

"I would love to complete what I've started with Cheltenham and I owe it to the chairman, directors, supporters and players to stay," Cotterill said.

Among those likely to be facing Cheltenham tomorrow will be Morecambe's Japanese utility player Kiesuke Takano, who is not only believed to be the first man from his country to have played football in an English national league, but who also his own Appreciation Society, formed by around 80 Lancaster University students attracted to the club by a discount tickets scheme.