A MAN sent off and three others booked might suggest this was a typical hard-fought South Yorkshire derby at Oakwell, but nothing could be further from the truth.
This was one of the most tame Barnsley-Doncaster games in recent years and it was lacklustre Rovers most to blame.
The fact that a section Doncaster fans booed and remonstrated with Dean Saunders’ side as they walked off at the end of both halves, said it all.
What upset supporters most at half-time was not that Rovers were a goal down - they were still in the game at that stage - but that they had displayed none of the passion or battling qualities demanded and expected in such games.
The Doncaster fans had travelled to Oakwell buoyed by Rovers’ excellent 3-2 win at Ipswich a fortnight ago in expectant mood. They were soon disappointed.
Rovers looked what they currently are - a side propping up the table - as they failed to score at Oakwell for the first time in 32 years and were beaten more convincingly than the score would suggest.
A Doncaster team which could easily have had half-a-dozen goals at Portman Road had just one shot of note on goal throughout the match.
With Rovers being so poor all over the field, the Reds didn’t need to be anything special to secure three points.
But at least they created chances, scored goals and displayed a will to win which Rovers never looked like matching.
With wins on the road proving hard to come by this season, Keith Hill’s men know that they need to capitalise on home advantage if they are going to keep out of trouble and they set their stall out to do just that despite being without suspended joint-leading scorer Andy Gray and on-loan midfielder Danny Drinkwater.
They took the game to Rovers from the start and debutant loan keeper Carl Ikeme, who had helped Middlesbrough win 3-1 at Oakwell in August, did well to keep out a couple of early efforts by Barnsley skipper Jacob Butterfield.
Butterfield and David Perkins were both dominant in midfield with Richardo Vaz Te and Matt Done also showing up well.
The Reds took a deserved lead on the half-hour when Rovers’ centre-back Shelton Martis lost his footing in the box trying to deny Craig Davies a shooting chance after he had latched on to a long ball out of defence, and the striker took full advantage.
Saunders, who revealed after the match that Martis had been carrying a groin injury, was replaced two minutes later by Adam Lockwood.
It was Lockwood’s first taste of competitive football since a knee operation late last season and he acquitted himself well prior to getting sent-off midway through the second half.
Second-best all over the field, Rovers never threatened to get back on level terms and they faced a gauntlet of angry fans around the tunnel as they trooped off.
The Doncaster fans must have expected some improvement after the interval, but it was Barnsley who continued to look the more dangerous side in possession with joint leading scorer Butterfield shooting just wide of the left-hand post from just outside the area on 48 minutes
Little was seen of Rovers as an attacking force until skipper George Friend, again playing in a midfield role, won them a 58th minute corner.
The Reds doubled their lead on 64 minutes.
Done managed to get the better of Brian Stock and James O’Connor on the edge of the box despite being on the floor at one stage, and ran on before pulling the ball back from just inside the byline for Davies to score in some style with the outside of his boot to claim his fourth of the season.
Stock troubled keeper Luke Steele for the only time during the game when winning his side a corner from just inside the area.
What was already looking to be a huge task for Rovers to salvage a result became an almost impossible one on 72 minutes as Lockwood received his marching orders for a foul on Reds’ centre-back Stephen Foster after he had just given away a free-kick.
Barnsley went close to a third goal late on, Jim O’Brien hitting the near post with an angled shot after cutting into the box. The ball ran across goal to unmarked substitute Danny Haynes at the far post who failed to hit the target from just a couple of yards out.
The Reds, who must have been expecting a much tougher game, will take a lot of heart from this victory and manager Hill was quite rightly upbeat at the end of his first South Yorkshire derby.
As for Rovers, it seems to be a case of one step forward, two steps back. They badly need to show more consistency.