This week may see supporters returning to some football grounds across the country as small signs of normality begin to peak through the coronavirus gloom, but it will be an empty house at the KCOM Stadium once again for a Yorkshire derby on Wednesday evening.

The Grant McCann derby, as nobody is calling it, would have been much bigger with fans inside the stadium as the former Doncaster boss comes up against his old side for the first time in a competitive game.

Much has changed at City since McCann made the move from the Keepmoat to the KCOM 18 months ago, while for Doncaster they remain in the same position, pushing for promotion out of the third tier having come so close in 2019 with the Tigers’ boss at the helm.

It’s a game that pits top against 10th, but having played a game less than their hosts Doncaster may well be in a false position and a look at their results this campaign offers a strong suggestion this could be an entertaining and fiercely competitive fixture.

Hull City's George Honeyman hugs Keane Lewis-Potter after he scored the match winner

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City  have reached the League One summit on the back of three successive victories  and now they are in pole position the plan is to entrench themselves at the top and stay there. Only with victories against promotion rivals will that be possible and this game falls firmly into that category.

Sunday’s FA Cup defeat may have taken a little of the wind out of City’s sails, but they remain on the right tack with more than a following breeze behind them to get the job done.

A fresh line-up will bring back fresh enthusiasm as well as fresh legs for the first league meeting between the sides since January 2012. A repeat of that 0-0 draw that day seems unlikely given the 46 goals the two have scored so far this campaign.

Hull City's Keane Lewis-Potter competing with Stevenage's Arthur Lontton
Hull City's Keane Lewis-Potter competing with Stevenage's Arthur Lontton

December will be key to City’s promotion chances with seven league games and 21 points on offer in the busiest month of the campaign, which also features a Papa John’s Trophy tie against league rivals Crewe Alexandra.

Beginning the month with three points heading to Oxford on Saturday would give a sparkle to the Tigers at the top of the tree as we edge closer to Christmas.

City have the league form, rested players and quality to get the job done at home and while a failure to take their chances cost them in the FA Cup, a change back to the league line-up who put three goals past Ipswich Town last time out will hopefully resolve that issue.

Prediction: Hull City 2-1 Doncaster

Hull City team news

Following his 60 minutes against Stevenage in the FA Cup on Sunday, Keane Lewis-Potter has the necessary minutes in his legs and looks a firm bet to come back into the starting line-up for this game.

Matt Ingram will retake his position between the posts with a new back four from the weekend after Josh Emmanuel, Reece Burke, Jacob Greaves and Callum Elder were all rested for the Cup tie.

Tom Eaves has scored in his last two appearances but is likely to have to occupy the bench, while the same is also likely for Sunday’s captain Lewie Coyle as he waits for a starting opportunity in the league again following his return from a shoulder injury.

Greg Docherty was hoping to be fit for the match at Portman Road last week but his thigh injury kept him out. An extra week to rest will have been welcome and the Scot should also return.

Richard Smallwood of Hull City warms up before the Carabao Cup match at the Stadium Of Light
Hull City's Richie Smallwood

Key battle

Richie Smallwood v Ben Whiteman.

Doncaster’s goals have been shared throughout the team this season with midfielder Ben Whiteman the top scorer with four. Madger Gomes has three to his name also from midfield and it’s stopping that creativity going forward which will be key for the Tigers.

Stopping Whiteman playing is the key, with the captain’s influence a big part of Doncaster’s success. Richie Smallwood and Greg Docherty will be tasked with that, or Dan Batty if he features, and for all City’s threats out wide, it will be what happens in the middle of the park that likely settles this encounter.

Doncaster Overview

Consistency has been the biggest factor for Rovers this season, or should that be a lack of it.

They may have won eight games already this campaign in all competitions but have been unable to string more than two wins together in the process. Having won back-to-back games heading to the KCOM, the form book dictates they’ll come unstuck against City.

It’s a big season for Doncaster, who having come close to promotion under McCann saw their bid for the play-offs ended last season by the coronavirus shutdown.

Currently lying 10th in the table, Darren Moore’s team are in a handy position and will be determined to ensure they’re challenging for a Championship place come May.

Fancy a flutter?

It’s no surprise City start as favourites with the league leaders in form and at home. The Pools are offering evens for a Tigers win, with Doncaster priced at 13/5 and 12/5 if you fancy the draw.

Goals are certainly expected by the bookies, who are offering only 19/20 for over 2.5 goals, so if you think against expectations this one will actually be tight, jump on under 1.5 goals at 11/5.

City have scored three times in their last two League One games so how about a high-scoring affair? If you fancy some really good value, you can get 22/1 on their being six goals in the match. A 4-2 victory anyone?