Liam Hoden: Barnsley toothless and Doncaster Rovers’ home worries aren’t forgotten despite victory

Paul Dickov
Paul Dickov
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Just how decisive can one mid-season game be?

With two teams following almost identical paths since last May and sitting in very similar positions heading into Saturday’s South Yorkshire derby, there could no shaking of the feeling that the match would be telling for both.

Rovers and the Reds went through plenty of upheaval in the summer following relegation from the Championship. And it has taken a good deal of time for both to find their feet back in League One.

Both went into the game sitting midtable in League One, separated by a single point, the relegation zone and play-off places almost equidistant from each.

At the end of 90 energy-sapping minutes, Rovers sat two points off the top six while the Reds were feeling the heat of being just three points clear of the bottom four.

So should Rovers be dreaming of a play-off push and Barnsley fearing a second straight relegation battle?

It is not quite as severe as that for the Reds but, if Saturday’s performance provides telling evidence, there appears little to really get excited about for the next four months ahead. A transitional season looks set to bring consolidation rather than immediate reward.

Barnsley were up for the battle of derby day but ultimately they were woefully toothless.

Happy enough to sit back and defend, they simply lacked the quality when they attempted to launch counterattacks.

Lacklustre was the word. And laboured could be thrown in there too.

There was a real opportunity to punish wastefulness from Doncaster but they lacked the tools with which to do it. And they struggled to stem the tide as pressure from the hosts continued to come.

It would be harsh to judge them on one start togather but the new look attack failed to produce any real instant magic. Alex Kiwomya made little impression, Milan Lalkovic struggled to have influence in the hole and George Waring looked isolated.

The changes will take time to reap reward but it is reaching the stage of the season where time very quickly is not on your side.

For Doncaster, the positivity of the last couple of months continued thanks to a stunning strike from substitute Harry Forrester.

But any excitement growing among the Keepmoat faithful is likely to be tamed by the same old thoughts about their home performances.

The pattern of the game was all too familiar from a Rovers perspective. They had the majority of the chances and much the better of the attacking play but failed to make it count.

Plenty of times this season they have been punished by an opposition second best on the day and you could sense the fear of a repeat among supporters.

Victory eased the fear but the manner in which it came, and so late in the game, means few will be truly convinced Rovers have ended their home hex just yet.

Which could explain the rather disappointing Keepmoat crowd for a South Yorkshire derby. Fewer than 6,500 Rovers supporters turned out for the game suggesting the more casual support has not been tempted by a potential play-off push just yet.

The 2,548 Reds in the north end of the Keepmoat will have looked on with a feeling as envy however as Rovers created plenty of chances, and good ones too, which their side did not.

How telling can one result be? That remains to be seen but one set of suppporters will be feeling a lot more positive this morning.

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