THE BIG MATCH

npower League 1 leaders Doncaster Rovers will be aiming to extend their stay at the top when they host a resurgent Hartlepool United at the Keepmoat Stadium.

Rovers come into the fixture leading the tight pack of promotion chasers - the top seven teams are separated by just four points - but have picked up just one win in their last six league fixtures.

Although that solitary victory came last time out when the Yorkshire outfit overcame Shrewsbury Town 2-1.

Midfielder David Syers is unhappy with the poor run of results but believes it has kept the team's feet on the ground.

The ex-Bradford City man told The Star: "What we've learned through this period is that some people think because we're top of the league that we should be beating teams 3-0.

"But we've not done that all season. That's not why we're where we are. We've ground results out, been very hard to beat, taken our chances when they've come, and taken points when they were on offer.

"That's the position we need to be in again until the end of the season because it's got us where we are now."

It won't be easy for Doncaster, however, as they entertain one of the league's form sides this weekend.

Hartlepool United, despite sitting 23rd in the table and six points adrift of safety, have won five and drawn two of their last seven fixtures, including a 3-0 win against Crewe Alexandra on Tuesday.

Their strong run has injected confidence into the side and captain Peter Hartley claims they can beat anybody, including front runners Doncaster.

The 24-year-old told www.hartlepoolunited.co.uk: "I know they [Doncaster Rovers] are top of the league and they are there for a reason, but I couldn't care less about that really.

"We feel like we can turn any team in this league over at the minute the way we are playing.

"We'll go there and play our way in to the game, be concentrated and ensure we don't give them anything early on or make any rash decisions and try to play the way we have been.

"I can say we won't be going there to put 11 men behind the ball and play for a point - we want to go there and win; we're full of belief and we are sure we can go there and get the three points if we maintain the standards we have in recent weeks."

KEEP AN EYE ON

Oldham Athletic's upturn in form has seen them stay above the relegation zone but their new found resolve will be tested when they entertain promotion-chasing Sheffield United.

Saturday's 1-0 win over Portsmouth was the Latics' third league win in a row since head of youth Tony Philliskirk took charge of first-team affairs following the departure of Paul Dickov in early February.

They had been on a miserable run of 10 league games without a win but victories over Stevenage, Milton Keynes Dons and Pompey have steadied the ship and moved them four points clear of the drop zone.

Their last outing was Tuesday night's 3-1 FA Cup loss to Premier League Everton but midfielder Dean Furman believes the side took positives from the game and can take that forward into Saturday's tough fixture.

The club captain told the Oldham Evening Chronicle: "I know we have a big fight on our hands [against Sheffield United].

"Over the last few weeks, the boys have all mucked in to help a difficult situation. We are looking forward to Saturday already.

"We can beat anyone in our division. We lost at Everton, but we can take great confidence from the run."

Sheffield United are second in the table, a point adrift of Doncaster, and have dropped just two points from the last 15 available - the best return from the last five games of any team in the division.

They failed to pick up three points in their last match - drawing 0-0 at home to Leyton Orient - and captain Michael Doyle has urged fans to get behind the team.

He explained to The Star: "We're all in it together, pushing for the same thing.

"The most important people in the run-in will be the fans. It showed when there was a great atmosphere in the second-half [against Leyton Orient].

"Sometimes, and I understand why, fans can get a bit edgy at home. Away, we always know they'll be brilliant because we can take as many with us as the club we're at has got, and there's no stopping us when the atmosphere is rocking.

"I've been a fan myself at games so I know it can be frustrating but we're all on the same side."

ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION

Yeovil Town fell to their first defeat in 10 games last time out, and they host Tranmere Rovers on Saturday.

The sixth-placed Glovers were on a run of eight successive wins - form that lifted them into the Play-Off places - but a 1-1 draw against Doncaster Rovers last Saturday and a 2-0 defeat to Colchester United ended that.

Tranmere Rovers make the trip to Somerset sitting third, two points from top spot, having emphatically beaten Colchester United 5-1 and gained a point against Notts County in the past week.

Swindon Town are the other side that could go into the lead at the top after play has finished on Saturday, and they meet Coventry City at the Ricoh Arena.

Kevin MacDonald was appointed as Paolo Di Canio's replacement on Thursday and the Robins will be looking to start his tenure with a win having had a 13-game undefeated run ended on Tuesday night.

Coventry City will prove a difficult challenge, however, as they look to close the five-point gap between themselves, in eighth, and the Play-Off places.

The other team occupying a top-six spot is Brentford and they will be aiming to strengthen their position when they entertain relegation-threatened Scunthorpe United, who sit just three points above the danger zone.

Bournemouth are level with the Bees and Yeovil on 58 points but sit just outside the Play-Off spots on goal difference. They have lost their last three league games but will be looking to break that run at the Matchroom Stadium on Saturday against Leyton Orient, who are also without a win in three.

Milton Keynes Dons, Notts County and Walsall all sit relatively close to the Play-Off places and they host Preston North End, Carlisle United and Shrewsbury Town respectively.

At the other end of the table, Colchester United will be hoping to haul Oldham Athletic or Scunthorpe United into the bottom four at their expense when they travel to Stevenage, who are on a run of five successive defeats.

Elsewhere in the relegation places, Bury are level on 30 points with Hartlepool United and welcome Crawley Town to Gigg Lane, while Portsmouth will be aiming to end their run of 22 league games without a victory when they meet Crewe.

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