DONCASTER Rovers looked anything but a side struggling at the wrong end of the Championship table as they beat derby rivals Barnsley in impressive style yesterday.
It was sweet revenge for a Doncaster side who had produced their worst performance of the season when going down 2-0 at Oakwell in November and the Reds could have had few complaints had their margin of defeat been even more emphatic.
Rovers, who had on-loan keeper David Button on debut, welcomed back skipper Brian Stock following a one-match ban, but they lacked Herold Goulon and Habib Beye, both picking up bans in Saturday’s 4-1 defeat at Watford. They also missed Pascal Chimbonda and El-Hadji Diouf, who both aggravated hamstring injuries in the same game,
Barnsley were missing influential midfielder Jacob Butterfield, who suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter of the Reds excellent 4-1 win over Leeds at Oakwell at the weekend and he was sorely missed as the Reds failed to reproduce the form shown against the Elland Road side.
Rovers made a bright start and leading scorer Billy Sharp tested Barnsley keeper Luke Steele with a low shot after he had got the better of Bobby Hassell in the box.
Rovers suffered a setback on eight minutes when losing centre-back George Friend, who was making his first start for several weeks, with a knee injury.
Adam Lockwood, sent-off after coming on as a substitute in the 2-0 defeat at Barnsley in November, took over.
Rovers went ahead on 14 minutes, Sharp did well to get behind the Barnsley back four on the right and pulled the ball back from near the byline to give James Hayter the chance to drill the ball home.
Button got down well to smother a low shot by Matt Done as the visitors chased an early reply.
But it was Rovers, looking more threatening going forward in the first 20 minutes than they had done against the Hornets, who continued to enjoy the better of the game.
Ricardo Vaz Te, who notched a hat-trick against Leeds after coming off the bench, volleyed over from the edge of the box after Rovers had failed to clear the danger from a 35th minute corner.
Kyle Bennett, who had linked with Hayter to get Sharp away down the left three minutes later, shot just wide of the near post from close range after latching on to the striker’s clever pass.
Steele denied Simon Gillett after the midfielder had been set-up by Coppinger.
Steele again came to Barnsley’s rescue on 49 minutes when beating out a fierce 20 yarder by Bennett.
Rovers were relieved to see a low right wing cross flash across the face of the goal without anyone getting a touch a minute later.
Barnsley boss Keith Hill brought on Reuben Noble-Lazarus for Done after 53 minutes.
With an hour gone there had been little for the 3,094 Barnsley fans to get excited about as Rovers continued to enjoy the better of the exchanges.
Button made his first real save of the game to deny Scott Wiseman at the expense of a corner.
Hill brought on Andy Gray for Miles Addison on 66 minutes in a bid to try and come up with an equaliser.
Coppinger conjured up a bit of magic to get Hayter away down the right, but Jim McNulty was in quickly to snuff out the danger.
Coppinger got a 20-yard half-volley on target on 76 minutes but Steele was well placed to collect.
Striker Craig Davies just cleared the bar from a 25 yard free-kick.
Sharp got a header on target at the other end but it lacked the power to trouble Steele.
Button then got down well to smother an angled shot by Gray as play continued to switch from end to end.
Steele continued to keep his side in the game, pulling off another excellent save from Coppinger. But he could do nothing to keep out a superb angled effort from the edge of the area by Bennett, whose goal capped an impressive individual display.
Button saved well from Vaz Te in stoppage time to crown a fine debut.
Rovers: Button 7, O’Connor 7, Friend *5, Hird 7, Ilunga 7, Coppinger 8, Stock 8, Gillett 7, Bennett 8, Sharp 8, Hayter 7. Substitutes G Woods, Lockwood 7 * 8, Dumbuya, Barnes Diatta.
Barnsley: Steele 9, Hassell 7, Foster 6, McNulty 7, McEvely 6, Wiseman 6, Addison 6 **, Perkins 7 ,Done 6 * , Vaz Te 7 Davies 7. Substitutes Preece Edwards Noble-Lazarus *53 Gray **66 Digby.
Bookings: Stock, Lockwood (Rovers), Addison (Barnsley).