IN a season where both South Yorkshire rivals have thus far failed to make a telling mark on League One, an inconclusive draw will have represented no great surprise to many last night.
Given Barnsley’s status as hosts and with expectation on their shoulders, as Danny Wilson acknowledged beforehand, a share of the spoils should have arguably represented more of a disappointment for the Reds.
But in the event, it was probably Wilson’s counterpart Paul Dickov who had more reason to be dismayed after seeing his side have the better of last night’s Pitmen’s Derby – especially in a second half when Barnsley were wholly out of sorts and there for the taking.
Rovers, for whom Theo Robinson struck his third goal of the campaign seven minutes after the interval to cancel out Lewin Nyatanga’s fifth-minute opener, once again showed their character in another impressive comeback performance following recent away recoveries at Crewe, Rochdale and Bristol City.
But they could not deliver the knock-out punch and for that Barnsley should be grateful, with a little bit of thanks also to their man between the posts in Ross Turnbull.
The pair remain ensconced just below mid-table waterline, level on points, with both passing up the opportunity to get to within shouting distance of the play-offs as well as securing bragging rights.
All told, last night represented the third successive draw between the pair, with Rovers at least secure in the knowledge that their away form is in safe keeping and not a significant issue, but their home form is another thing entirely.
Ditto Barnsley, in a campaign where homesickness is bedevilling any serious hopes of a concerted promotion tilt.
For Wilson, due to celebrate his landmark 1,000 game as a manager later this month and whose first anniversary as Reds chief is scheduled for December 17, it represented an imperfect start to a seminal December.
Since Wilson took over, the Reds have won just six out of 23 matches at home and three this term in League One. As the saying goes, there are lies, damned lies and statistics.
Last season’s Oakwell clash, aside from the pre-match drama surrounding former Doncaster chairman John Ryan’s resignation bombshell and Turnbull’s penalty save – in Rovers colours – from Chris O’Grady, was a total snoozefest, but this time around both sides provided enough entertainment in the opening 45 minutes to more than compensate.
It saw Barnsley head in with a lead, but for that they had ample reason to thank their former nemesis Turnbull.
With Rovers pressing for a leveller in a sustained spell ahead of the interval, the north-easterner stood tall to make three excellent saves to twice deny Robinson and then Kyle Bennett, having also shown his mettle earlier to thwart efforts from the pair.
Barnsley also played their part in proceedings, in a half where attackers comfortably had the whip hand and defences creaked.
Without two key men in Sam Winnall and Martin Cranie, Wilson was offered another problematic selection issue he could have done without ahead of kick-off, with teenage substitute Mason Holgate drafted in for a shock debut as a late replacement for Joe Dudgeon.
Any fears Wilson may have had of the Reds being thrown out of kilter soon dissipated with his side providing the tempo and fluency he had been demanding that had been so lacking in the first half against Scunthorpe.
It produced an early goal, thanks to an emphatic header from the unmarked Nyatanga from Conor Hourihane’s corner.
It continued Rovers’ poor trait of conceding first in matches, with Dickov’s side having failed to take the lead in a league game since September 20.
In truth, Rovers had suffered two scares ahead of Nyatanga’s goal with Marcello Trotta and James Bailey going close and ultimately paid the price for a fitful start, although the visitors did soon find their feet.
Robinson and Bennett were denied by Turnbull before play soon switched to the other end when a quality cross from Hourihane picked out Leroy Lita, his first-time volley drew a reaction save from Sam Johnstone.
Rovers finally equalised on 52 minutes, Richie Wellens finding space in the box to fire in a shot which was blocked, with Robinson drilling the rebound home.
Curtis Main bundled an effort wide and Bennett shot at Turnbull, while Nyatanga’s header flew wide from Hourihane’s corner.
Barnsley: Turnbull; Brown, Nyatanga, Ramage, Holgate; Trotta (Treacy 61), Berry (Abbott 78), Bailey, Hourihane; Cole, Lita. Unused substitutes: Davies, Hemmings, Digby, Cowgill.
Doncaster Rovers: Johnstone; Wabara, McCullough, Butler, Stevens; Coppinger, Keegan, Wellens, Bennett; Robinson, Main (Forrester 81). Unused substitutes: Marosi, Furman, McCombe, Wakefield, De Val Fernandez, J McKay.
Referee: N Miller (Co Durham).