I’m not sure why Barnsley versus Doncaster Rovers has never properly taken off as a derby game. Its got all the ingredients; proximity for a start, plus the roots of mutual hatred based on more similarities than folk seem prepared to admit. Last season, in the away end toilets at Oakwell, stood a bloke loudly proclaiming how backwards and disgusting the local population were… whilst simultaneously taking a piss and using both hands to send a text. As rivalries go, it’s certainly got legs.
So with the county’s ‘Big Two’ now the ‘Big Three and Four’ there is chance for The Pitmen’s Derby to edge nervously to centre stage, blinking in the unfamiliar spotlight. With no one-upmanship to gain o’er big clubs down t’road we will both instead seek to impose ourselves instead on the mirror image from across the Dearne. Haha look at them, they play in red, there are loads of empty seats in their stadium, heeheehee, their industrial heritage has been decimated, large numbers of them are unemployed or illiterate, and their town is decidedly uncouth. And we shall repeat these jibes in unison at Oakwell, like the followers in Monty Python’s Life of Brian; “Yes, we’re all different”.
Whilst we may be just a few miles apart as the pit-pony treks, football-wise our proximity has been historically more distant. Barnsley pitched up in the second tier in black and white, and being stubborn Yorkshire-folk as they are dug their heels in and refused to move. No other club has spent as many years at this level as Barnsley, it’s not like it was in their day you know. There were none of this international break malarkey for a start I tells thee, no tha just got on with it. The Tykes even stuck the head in through the door of the Premier League in 1997 to see what all the fuss was about, but decided it wasn’t for them, and soon settled back down in their favourite second tier, with their own tankard in hand.
Rovers on the other hand spent most of their existence, scrabbling about in the dark of the football league coal cellar and so meetings between the two sides were few and far between, and often relied on Barnsley dropping down the divisions through prolonged poor-form, or the 1970s as they’re more commonly known. Throughout the 80s and 90s they remained leagues apart before Rovers had their revenge from 2004 to 2006 knocking up five successive wins.
Those victories gave Rovers the edge in head-to-head encounters, but with Barnsley winning four of the last six meetings all is level again. On sixty-two occasions men in cloth caps have trudged down the A635 in one direction or the other, Barnsley have won twenty-two of these fixtures, Rovers have won twenty-two of these fixtures. We’re as inseparable as your pick and shovel, as knurr and spell. So, this weekend brings forth the chance of glory, the winner takes it all, and it is Doncaster’s time to shine and become the county’s leading light. Victory is ours for the taking, marking us as undisputed red and white champions of the South Riding. We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Give us an on form Billy Sharp and we will finish the job. Today is Doncaster’s time. And if they win? Fuck ’em. We’ve got a H&M and a Civc Quarter being built. I bet they’ve not even got a Starbucks the witless Kestrel flying bastards.
Sadly it seems “Injury Update with Dean Saunders” has failed to be commissioned as a series and was instead just a one-off pre-Ipswich trip special; a bit like those “Audience with” programmes ITV used to do, you know the ones, when you got to see Moira Stewart and Cleo Rocos pissing themselves at Dame Edna Everage. Anyway, back… grudgingly… to the team news and there’s likely to be just one change to the side that began Rovers’ last match at Portman Road, that being the inclusion of goalkeeper Carl Ikeme, who has joined on-loan from Wolves. Gary Woods is reportedly fit again too, but expect Ikeme to start the game.
Suspension is one of the biggest determining factors in Keith Hill’s squad selection with Andy Gray and good health ambassador Danny Drinkwater both suspended. However, the international break may have allowed many of his side’s walking wounded to recover; Reuben Noble-Lazarus has fittingly risen again, whilst Danny Haynes, Bobby Hassell and Goran Lovre all likely to return from injury, according to the BBC.
(4-3-2-1) Carl Ikeme; Pascal Chimbonda, Richard Naylor, Shelton Martis, George Friend; Herita Ilunga, Simon Gillett, Brian Stock; Jamie Coppinger, El Hadji Diouf; Billy Sharp
subs: Gary Woods, James O’Connor, James Hayter, Ryan Mason, Kyle Bennett
It’s probably safe to assume most of you know where Barnsley is. After all the A635 isn’t called Barnsley Road for nowt. Anyway, on the off-chance some of you don’t know where Oakwell is, take the A635 toward Barnsley following signs into the town centre until you come to Stairfoot roundabout. Here turn right onto the A633 (Monk Bretton, Wakefield). And then at the next roundabout take the first exit (A628 Pontefract Road), the ground will come into view on your right. There is some parking on this street, alternatively stick with the A635 all the way into the centre then follow signs for the MetroDome to park adjacent to the away end, and weigh up that great unspoken dilemma… football or flumes.
If you’re going by train or service bus, Oakwell is a ten minute walk away from the Interchange. According to the excellent Football Ground Guide website turn left as you leave either station or terminus, heading away from the town centre and go towards the bridge that the dual-carriageway runs over. Go under the bridge and turn left up the slip road and then take the first road on the right towards the Metro Dome. From here Oakwell is visible at the foot of the hill; it being the big shiny thing in a valley of greyness.
Sadly despite the welcome price-drop away games remain beyond our means at present. We will however, battery and internet pick-up depending, be giving updates on the game via our twitter feed. So, follow @vivarovers for these in-game 140 character or less despatches and look out for the #drfc hashtag to get exclusive second-hand details of a game you already know more than us about.
Long-running Rovers fans’ team the Donny R’sonists are in action as well this Saturday as they take on the Barnsley Supporters’ FC in an pre-match appetiser of an IFA League game. So if you can’t wait until 3pm for mediocre cross-county football then you don’t have to. The R’sonists will be rocking their Conference vintage blue away kit in the shop window at Carlton Community College for a 10:30am kick-off.
If you’re not making the short hop to Barnsley there are still a number of non-league sides in action closer to home. In the Northern Counties East League Division One Hemsworth Miners Welfare host Shirebrook Town in a 3:00pm kick-off. One step further down the pyramid there are two local games in the Central Midlands League, Northern Division – both kicking off at 2:00pm – with Bentley Colliery at home to Glapwell and Edlington’s Yorkshire Main facing Phoenix. Get yourself along and support your local non-league team, though don’t expect to win the half-time raffle. They’re all rigged. Everyone knows that. The football cards too.