Old guard see in New Year in style: Rovers 2 Barnsley 0

Goalscorer Kyle Bennett surges past Barnsley's Bobby Hassell. Picture: Andrew Roe.
Goalscorer Kyle Bennett surges past Barnsley's Bobby Hassell. Picture: Andrew Roe.
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IT was out with the new and in with the old as a retro-look Rovers started 2012 in winning fashion with a derby day victory over Barnsley.

Goals from recalled duo James Hayter and Kyle Bennett handed much-changed Rovers the deserved win as they produced a performance of high energy and passion.

Hayter put Rovers ahead early with Bennett sealing it late, both producing excellent finishes.

But the most eye catching element of the contest was the performance from an ‘old school’ Rovers who demonstrated excellent cohesion and a great deal of determination.

There was somewhat of a retro feel to the stating XI with only two of Dean Saunders’ raft of signings making it onto the pitch.

Instead, it was many of the players who Saunders inherited from Sean O’Driscoll who played and did so well to seal a win which lifted the side off the foot of the table.

The action may not have been particularly sparkling throughout but Rovers did show a lot of fluidity, passing well all over the pitch and closing down very well.

New loan keeper David Button started between the sticks with Herita Ilunga the only other new boy handed a starting berth.

El Hadji Diouf and Pascal Chimbonda sat out with injury while Habib Beye and Herold Goulon served suspensions.

Bennett and Hayter were back in the starting line up along with James O’Connor, George Friend and Brian Stock.

The old guard started the game at a frenetic pace and were camped in the Barnsley half for much of the early stages.

Billy Sharp was first to test Luke Steele after being played into space on the left corner of the box by Hayter.

Sharp cut past Bobby Hassell and sent a low effort on goal with Steele tipping wide with his legs.

Rovers suffered an early blow when George Friend was forced off with a knee injury – believed to be medial ligament damage – with Adam Lockwood replacing him.

But Rovers did not let up and took the lead on 13 minutes with Hayter producing a classy finish.

Sharp battled to the last to chase the ball to the byline and cut back to Hayter in space in the centre of the area with the striker finding the far corner with a side-footed effort.

Barnsley were gifted their first chance of the match on the quarter hour when James O’Connor played an ill-advised pass in the box and Ricardo Vaz Te latched on before driving low to the near post where Button calmly gathered.

Vaz Te continued to be the biggest threat for Barnsley without ever truly testing Button.

He sent a side volley wide of the post on 34 minutes and spurned a glorious opportunity a few minutes later as he took advantage of a mix-up in the Rovers defence to find space, only to send a clear shot wide.

Rovers looked excellent on the break and could have doubled their advantage close to half time when Sharp galloped down the left.

He sent a low cross into the box with Kyle Bennett advancing but pressure from Jim McNulty saw him send the ball out for a goal kick.

And in first half stoppage time, Simon Gillett forced a good save from Steele as he drilled low from the edge of the area.

Bennett fired the first shot of the second half as Rovers continued to break through from midfield.

Sharp sent him down the left and Bennett drove to the corner of the box before powering an effort which Steele parried away from danger.

Barnsley charged down the other end with Vaz Te sending the ball across goal but Craig Davies could not meet it on the slide.

Rovers enjoyed a good period of pressure in the opening ten minutes of the half.

Bennett again tested Steele with a shot from distance but the Barnsley stopper got down low once more to smother the ball.

The impressive Button produced an excellent save to keep his side in front, getting down low to tip wide when Scott Wiseman fired on goal from just inside the area.

Rovers were definitely on the front foot however and surged forward at every attempt.

Coppinger charged to the edge of the area but his shot was sent wide by Jay McEveley.

And Coppinger popped up again shortly afterwards when the ball bounced out to him on the edge of the area and he sent a side volley straight at Steele, catching it almost too well.

Davies went close with a long range free kick but failed to test Button before Sharp sent a header on goal from a Bennett cross which produced a simple catch from Steele.

The Barnsley keeper then produced a stunning one handed save while diving the other way from a Coppinger snap shot to give his side a chance in the late stages.

And Barnsley began to pressurise as the game moved in to the last 15 minutes with Rovers’ single goal lead looking a little slim.

Button again came to their rescue, stretching to claim Davies’ touch, and it proved vital as Rovers sealed the match with a minute to go.

Sharp missed Coppinger’s looping cross but the ball ran through to Bennett on the left of the area.

He took a touch and curled a brilliant effort over Steele and in at the far top.

There was still time for Button to produce a couple of saves from Bobby Hassell and Vaz Te but Rovers had done enough to start 2012 in winning fashion.

Rovers: Button, O’Connor, Ilunga, Friend (Lockwood, 7), Hird, Bennett, Stock, Gillett, Coppinger, Sharp, Hayter.

Subs: Woods, Dumbuya, Barnes, Diatta.

Barnsley: Steele, Hassell, McEveley, Foster, Davies, Done (Noble-Lazarus, 53), Perkins, Wiseman, McNulty, Addison (Gray, 66), Vaz Te.

Subs: Preece, Edwards, Gray, Digby.

Att: 11,446