Analysis: Barnsley 0 Doncaster Rovers 0 - Ryan’s last stand

Teary-eyed, John Ryan takes his seat among supporters after resigning as Rovers chairman.
Teary-eyed, John Ryan takes his seat among supporters after resigning as Rovers chairman.

It takes a lot to overshadow a local derby, particularly when both rivals are desperate for the points.

But the resignation of a chairman who has reigned over one of the clubs for a rollercoaster 15-year period did just that.

John Ryan’s decision to end his tenure at the top of the Doncaster Rovers hierarchy was made public just four minutes before the start of a key clash between his club and Barnsley.

Though far from his intention, the day became about Ryan from that moment on.

It is hard to blame anyone remotely associated with Rovers from becoming distracted by the news.

This is a man who has been the lifeblood of the club’s recent history, the chest-thumping, beating heart in a time when Rovers have risen from the ashes in the most dramatic style.

No matter what was happening on the pitch at Oakwell, the majority of Rovers supporters were always going to focus on paying tribute to the man labelled their saviour.

That was particularly so after half-time when Ryan made the symbolic step of leaving the directors’ box and returning to the stands and the masses.

He was serenaded with chants of ‘There’s only one John Ryan’ for much of the game, had his hand shaken and back patted hundreds of times.

Ryan’s decision was born out of the frustration of not being on the same page as his fellow major shareholders at the club.

For Ryan, the boardroom battle boils down to going backwards versus progression and he feels new ownership at the Keepmoat is the only thing that will bring the latter.

Going backwards means a return to League One so it was somewhat ironic that his final stand against regression came at a game which could prove so important in the battle to avoid relegation to the third tier.

Ryan witnessed his side battle out a goalless draw with Barnsley, a result which was better for Rovers than their rivals at this stage of proceedings.

Sharing the spoils helped Rovers stay two points ahead of the Reds, the point keeping their nose out of the trough of the bottom three.

It ended a three-match run of defeats for Paul Dickov’s men and it arrived courtesy of defensive hard work and a measure of good fortune.

Had boardroom matters at one of the clubs not drawn the headlines, talk would have been of a missed penalty for Chris O’Grady, undoubtedly the key moment, which came on 19 minutes.

There were no qualms with Kevin Friend’s decision to award the spot-kick after Bongali Khumalo clumsily wiped out Marcus Pederson in the race to meet an O’Grady cross.

The powerful striker drilled his penalty hard and low but Rovers keeper Ross Turnbull stretched superbly to keep it out.

O’Grady and several of his teammates shared and wasted numerous chances to spare his blushes, leaving Reds boss David Flitcroft to bemoan a lack of ruthlessness in his side.

There was no doubt Flitcroft was the more frustrated of the two bosses with the outcome.

Barnsley had much the better of the chances, with Rovers’ opportunities in front of goal limited.

There was certainly a feeling Rovers were happy with the point well before the final whistle with a certain degree of time-wasting and Dickov’s decision to pack the midfield when withdrawing the shattered Theo Robinson with half an hour to go.

Both sides struggled to find their feet in the early stages of the first half as they each looked to deny the other space to operate.

Barnsley were the first to begin unlocking the oppositions’ defence, finding luck in the channels through O’Grady and the lively Paddy McCourt.

Jean Yves Mvoto looked set to come back and haunt Rovers, the club he looked certain to join in the summer after spending almost the whole of pre-season in Doncaster.

He had the game’s first real chance, meeting a corner unmarked with a diving header and somehow sending the ball wide.

Rovers seemed to struggle with the lack of a wide midfielder on the left as, when they were in possession, Robinson would join Chris Brown in attack.

Reece Wabara profited with the space ahead of him, making several surging runs and looking as threatening as he has done for some time.

But there was a lack of good link-up play in the final third, ensuring Rovers never looked like even nicking a win.

The most impressive aspect from the Doncaster perspective was the performance of Luke McCullough, making only his second start in senior football.

There was no panic in the 19-year-old who did a fine job in dealing with the attentions of Pederson and O’Grady.

He was well placed to deny the latter of the two around the half-hour mark, blocking a header from a Tom Kennedy cross.

His only mistake came in bringing down McCourt in the second half, but his poorly-timed challenge in the box went unpunished.

McCourt made a number of surging runs during the game and did everything right bar score just before the break when sending a stabbed effort straight at Turnbull.

He drew a more testing stop from Turnbull ten minutes into the second half with a drilled effort from outside the box.

Mvoto got on the end of a pair of searching crosses in the second half but failed to find the target with both of his headers.

The man brought into fill the boots he was expected to wear at Rovers, Khumalo, missed a pair of similar efforts at the other end.

Rovers’ best chance came late on when Richie Wellens found space on the edge of the box but curled his shot just wide.

Barnsley still looked the most likely to snatch a late winner and both O’Grady and substitute Tomasz Cywka will feel they should have done that.

A few houses would have gone on O’Grady scoring when he got ahead of Wabara to meet a deep cross but he powered his header wide.

And Cywka scuffed a far-post header wide with Turnbull stranded as Barnsley fully realised it was not to be their day.

Ultimately the result was forgettable on an unforgettable day for Doncaster Rovers.