Of course it would be churlish of us to suggest that victory in a South Yorkshire derby was the result of some flimsy reverse psychology employed through a media based feature item, but we will say this. It worked, it worked, we told you it would and it worked. Yep, the streets and houses of Barnsley at Saturday tea-time will have resembled the opening scenes of Ripping Yarns tonight – even more so than normal – for Rovers have ended a run of three succesive defeats to their neighbours by beating Barnsley 1-0, one bloody nil. This was not as comprehensive a victory as past wins over The Tykes, but it was no less celebrated and no less important as Rovers ground out a single goal victory at Oakwell to move back into 8th spot in the Championship.
Rovers began this game and put some early pressure on their hosts in the form of two early corners, though on each occasion they didn’t quite manage to test Luke Steele in the Barnsley goal as Mark Wilson volleyed wide from the edge of the box following the first set-piece, and the latter ended with Jamie Coppinger having two shots blocked. Barnsley were prepared to threaten with the set-pieces themselves, most notably through the long throw-ins of Ryan Shotton which first posed a threat in the opening quarter of an hour, the full-back’s lob into the box being headed goalwards by Andy Gray though Neil Sullivan saved comfortably.
Though Rovers were retaining possession well for the most part it was Sullivan who was the busier keeper as he was called on to make three further saves in the opening half an hour. Filipe Teixera tested the veteran ‘keeper with an effort from twenty yards whilst winger Adam Hammill had two strikes on goal but again Sullivan fielded both confidently. Substitute Daniel Bogdanovic also threatened for Barnsley as he fired over, but all these efforts were to prove in vain as it was the visitors who took the lead ten minutes before the break. Coppinger held up play neatly on the corner of the Barnsley box before exchanging passes with Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, and then with the ball back at his feet Coppinger hit a curling right footed shot low into the far corner of the Barnsley goal, and promptly ran the length of the field to celebrate with the travelling Rovers supporters.
With a one goal lead behind them Rovers continued to look confident in possession and in midfield in particularly they were moving the ball around as well as they can. However, Barnsley were trying to force their way back into things and threatened an equaliser before the break as Hammill hit a long range free-kick straight at Sullivan, and then in the final minute as a deep corner from the left picked out the head of Anderson De Silva, but he could only direct the ball onto the top of the crossbar and Rovers went into half time a goal to the good.
The second half got off to quite an eventful start with both sides threatening in the opening five minutes, Rovers being the first to get a side of goal as Billy Sharp hit a shot from the left channel which went just wide of the far post. Barnsley’s Anderson met a similar fate minutes later as he got into the Rovers area on the right, and then Emmanuel-Thomas threatened again for Rovers with an ambitious lob that sailed wide of Steele’s goal. Embracing the idea of end to end football Barnsley then pressed again with Hammill again shooting from long range and again being denied by Sullivan. Minutes later came a great opportunity for Rovers to double their advantage as Coppinger put in a near post cross from the right which found the perfect target in Sharp, but sadly he could only direct his header wide.
Coppinger was close to a second goal of his own as the match reached the three quarters mark, cutting in from the right only for his low effort to be saved by Steele. At the other end Sullivan was being kept particularly busy with Anderson and Hammill both testing hims again from distance, but Sullivan was not to be beaten and was standing firm beneath everything including a Barnsley corner as he was outnumbered by red shirts. Rovers were still forcing chances of their own and with fifteen minutes to go it took a header off the line from Darren Moore to deny Doncaster a second goal, with James Hayter unlucky to aim wide with a diving header moments later.
Into the final ten minutes and Barnsley were now pressing on Sullivan’s goal for an equaliser that with every thwarted attack looked less likely to come. The Rovers’ keeper was again on hand to save at his near post to thwart a close range effort from Gray and when Sullivan wa snot getting in the way invariably a Rovers player would with a succession of defensive blocks also preventing Bogdanovic and Hammill from finding the target. Colace and Bogdanovic also had efforts on target in a frantic closing minutes which ended with goalkeeper Steele in the box to attack a late corner, but Rovers held firm and notched a 1-0 win which helps them keep the faint dream of a play-off position alive for another week at least.
Barnsley line-up (4-4-2); Luke Steele; Ryan Shotton, Darren Moore, Stephen Foster, Luke Potter; Filipe Teixeira (Daniel Bogdanovic), Hugo Colace, Nathan Doyle (Jacob Butterfield), Adam Hammill; Anderson De Silva (Emil Halfredsson), Andy Gray
subs not used: David Preece, O’Neil Thompson, John Macken, Iain Hume
booked: Hugo Colace, Ryan Shotton
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-2-3-1); Neil Sullivan; James Chambers, James O’Connor, Shelton Martis, Gareth Roberts; John Oster, Mark Wilson; Jamie Coppinger, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas (Martin Woods), James Hayter; Billy Sharp (Adam Lockwood)
subs not used: Ben Smith, Sam Hird, Sean McDaid, Jordan Mutch, Dean Shiels
booked: Billy Sharp, John Oster