Analysis: Late pendulum finally swings for Doncaster Rovers as Rotherham United are edged out

Doncaster's Alfie May and Rotherham's Matthew Olosunde battle for the ball at the Keepmoat. Picture: Marie Cale
Doncaster's Alfie May and Rotherham's Matthew Olosunde battle for the ball at the Keepmoat. Picture: Marie Cale
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AHEAD of the game, most of the talk had centred around one winger.

Once the action got underway, discussion soon turned to another. Before the chatter switched to an oh-so-familiar figure.

Doncaster manager Darren Moore and assistant manager Jamie Smith, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley.

Doncaster manager Darren Moore and assistant manager Jamie Smith, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley.

It was a big day for recent Doncaster Rovers signing and ex-Millers wingman Jon Taylor, handed a first start against his former club in one of those delicious quirks of fate that football seems to spring up regularly.

Millers' deadline-day arrival Jake Hastie's name on the teamsheet almost crept in unnoticed by comparison, but the Scot certainly made a name for himself in the first half on his bow for the visitors - crowned by a goal.

A player who has made friends and influenced people for a many a year at the Keepmoat Stadium eventually had something to say about that, with the irrepressible evergreen James Coppinger restoring parity midway through the second half with another choice contribution in the red and white of Rovers.

There was time for more, with Rovers - who ran rings around Rotherham in the final half hour - taking the derby glory late on when Ben Whiteman stroked home an 88th-minute winner from the spot after Michael Ihiekwe fouled interval substitute Niall Ennis, whose introduction changed the game.

Amid traditionally stodgy derby fare, which was mistake-ridden and scrappy for fair chunks of the opening half, the vestiges of quality almost exclusively arrived from the Rangers loanee on his bow for the Millers.

Leon Wobschall

It was a sweet moment for Rovers, on the recieving end of late goals in both league fixtures between the club's in 2017-18.

What a difference a half makes.

Amid traditionally stodgy derby fare, which was mistake-ridden and scrappy for fair chunks of the opening half, the vestiges of quality almost exclusively arrived from the Rangers loanee on his bow for the Millers.

His golden moment arrived on 37 minutes, After a couple of 'sighters' with well-delivered set-plays, his exquisite free-kick from a deep position slightly to the right evaded everybody in a congested penalty area before nestling in the net. Dream debut is the phrase.

FAMILIAR FACE: Doncaster Rovers' Jon Taylor and Rotherham's Carlton Morris. Picture: Marie Caley.

FAMILIAR FACE: Doncaster Rovers' Jon Taylor and Rotherham's Carlton Morris. Picture: Marie Caley.

Moments later, some electric wing play saw Hastie - early evidence suggests that his left foot will prove a handy weapon for the Millers this term - show classic wing traits in dropping his shoulder and flying past his marker before sending over a peach of a cross, which was headed just wide by Ben Wiles under pressure from Reece James.

All the while, Taylor toiled in comparison. After starting out on the right, he later moved inside to try and luck.

But in the first half, he was a peripheral figure, with the big Millers contingent largely heeding manager Paul Warne's call and electing not to barrack the player. In fairness, you struggled to know he was on the pitch in the first half.

It was comfortable for the Millers, whose back five - with Lewis Price handed the goalkeeping gloves with Daniel Iversen on international duty - were rarely troubled by the Rovers' lightweight forwards, while set-pieces provided the main window of opportunity at the other end.

Darren Moore made an early change, with Ennis replacing the anonymous Kazaiah Sterling, who got no change whatsoever from the visiting defence, although he was given precious little to feed off.

The narrative of the first period continued with another inviting corner from Hastie gravitating towards the head of Richard Wood, whose header sailed onto the roof of the net.

The Millers were winning the battles, compounding the frustration of Rovers and especially Taylor, who was dumped on his backside in his first moment of expression on 57 minutes when he was fouled by Matthew Olosunde after a dangerous run.

Taylor's belated assertion had at least provided a much-needed semblance of hope among the home faithful, with his header which flew over following James Coppinger's centre reinforcing that.

Price was then forced into his first meaningful work to superbly tip over a fine volley from Ben Sheaf before Tom Anderson headed just wide as Rovers finally rediscovered some of the mojo which had seen them win their previous three matches.

Home supporters were soon on their feet, thanks to Coppinger's moment with the veteran stroking the ball home after probing work by Brad Halliday and the impressive Ennis, who pulled the ball back invitingly into his path.

It was a derby in the melting pot again and Taylor almost came to the party in spectacular fashion with his fierce drive kept out by Price as the Millers started to creak.

Reece James soon tested Price as Rovers started to enjoy themselves in the autumn sun with Ennis and Kieran Sadlier soon going close before Whiteman applied the sweetener.

Doncaster Rovers: Lawlor; Halliday, Anderson, John, James; Sheaf, Whiteman; Taylor (Blair 80), Coppinger, May (Sadlier 61); Sterling (Ennis 45). Substitutes unused: Dieng, Amos, Blaney, Longbottom.

Rotherham United: Price; Olosunde; Ihiekwe, Wood, Robertson; Wiles, MacDonald (Crooks 69), Lindsay; Hastie (Mattock 76), Ladapo, Morris (Smith 80). Substitutes unused: Bilboe, Thompson, Barlaser, Lamy.

Referee: M Coy (Co.Durham).

Attendance: 11,407 (3,392 Rotherham supporters).