Barnsley 0 Doncaster Rovers 1: Robins left to rue derby defeat

A PERENNIAL thorn in the Reds' side during his time with Doncaster, Coppinger is a flying winger and a match-winner on his day.

Prophetic words from the Barnsley programme as James Coppinger climbed from his sick bed to settle the South Yorkshire derby and prevent Barnsley from securing a second successive double over Rovers.

"I have a bit of history against them and I've had good times apart from last season when we lost 4-1. I think three or four players have been sent off for tackles on me – I once got put over the advertising boards in the corner – and we have generally come out on top," said the 29-year-old.

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Looking like Shaggy from the Scooby-Do cartoon, having not shaved throughout March in order to raise funds for the NSPCC, Coppinger claimed his performance was almost like an "out of body experience."

"I didn't expect to be playing as I had been ill all week with something like a virus, it's hard to explain. The team wasn't named until we got in the changing room and, having only trained on Friday, it was a case of being sent out there to see how I felt."

Despite his illness, Coppinger soldiered on until the final whistle, adding: "The performance warranted the result."

And he was fully aware of his fourth goal of the season which came in front of the Kop in the 35th minute after he was teed up on the corner of the area by Arsenal loanee Jay Emmanuel-Thomas.

"We are not the biggest of teams so we have to work things from corners," explained Coppinger.

"We worked really hard on it in training – I know the fans get frustrated because they want us to put the ball in but it seems to be working for us and teams are struggling to cope with it.

"We worked it in the corner to get me some space and I curled it round a few players and the keeper was unsighted. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was going in."

Coppinger was also the supplier of the cross which invited striker Billy Sharp to make the game safe but Rovers' top scorer headed wide from six yards in the 51st minute.

It could have been costly as Barnsley, smarting from two successive away defeats, stormed back in the second half, and should have captured a point.

Argentinian Hugo Colace, who has been transformed from a holding midfield player into a goal-scoring support runner under Mark Robins, had three late opportunities to rescue a point.

First he was denied by Neil Sullivan's fine save at the foot of his post and then Gareth Roberts produced a great block before Colace dived full length but could only divert his header wide from Adam Hammill's cross.

Hammill, the match-winner in the Keepmoat encounter between the sides, was, until the second half introduction of young Jacob Butterfield, the one Barnsley player to wrest the initiative from Rovers and put them on the back foot.

The visitors enjoyed playing on a better quality Oakwell pitch than their home turf and the fluidity of their movement had Barnsley back-pedalling in the first half, Darren Moore having to rely on every ounce of his huge experience to keep them at bay.

Robins had set Barnsley up in the 4-4-1-1 system which had produced a 4-1 win at Preston but admitted it did not work against Rovers and he was forced to switch after 29 minutes when Filipe Teixeira suffered an abductor strain.

Top scorer Daniel Bogdanovic, struggling with a 'turned' ankle, came on to partner Andy Gray up front with the ineffective Anderson De Silva moving out wide before being replaced by Emil Hallfredsson.

Still, Barnsley could not puncture a well-drilled Rovers defence to leave Sean O'Driscoll's men still harbouring faint hopes of a play-off challenge.

Like his manager, Coppinger is not looking that far ahead: "A few of the players talk about the play-offs while I'm one of those who is more realistic," he said.

"I have been at the club six years now and I just take each game as it comes. When you get carried away and talk about it, you can end up with a few defeats which soon send you sliding down the league. It's one of those seasons where anything can happen so we have just to keep winning games and putting in performances like today's. If we keep doing things right then we might have a chance but this club is massively punching above its weight.

"The expectation levels at this club are not as big as a lot of clubs around us, such as Middlesbrough and Sheffield United, and I think that can only work in our favour. And with a manager like Sean O'Driscoll anything is possible."

Barnsley: Steele, Shotton, Foster, Moore, Potter; Teixeira (Bogdanovic 29), Colace, Doyle (Butterfield 54), Hammill; De Silva (Hallfredsson 73); Gray. Unused substitutes: Preece, Hume, Macken, Thompson.

Doncaster Rovers: Sullivan, Chambers, Martis, O'Connor, Roberts; Wilson; Coppinger, Oster, Hayter; Sharp (Lockwood 87), Emmanuel-Thomas (Woods 90). Unused substitutes: Smith, McDaid, Sheils, Mutch, Hird.

Referee: D Deadman (Cambridge).

MATCH FOCUS

Hero: Darren Moore

The veteran put family tragedy to the back of his mind following the sudden death of his sister's young son and was rock solid at the heart of the Barnsley defence when Rovers were tearing into the Reds in the first half.

Villain: Billy Sharp

A Sheffield lad was always going be the target of the Barnsley boo-boys but at least Rovers' on-loan Blades striker's feisty approach sparked some passion into this derby encounter.

Key moment:

51st-minute: It would have been game over had not Billy Sharp headed wide of an open goal from six yards out.

Ref watch:

Darren Deadman: Showed leniency especially when only booking last man Ryan Shotton for pulling back James Hayter.

Verdict

Rovers chairman John Ryan claims the power base in South Yorkshire football is shifting Doncaster and Barnsley's way – seems a somewhat premature shout.

Next game

Championship: Plymouth v Barnsley, tomorrow; Plymouth v Doncaster, Saturday.

Quote of the day

Billy is very ambitious and it will be difficult for Doncaster to keep him if he keeps scoring goals.

– James Coppinger on the future of team-mate and on-loan striker Billy Sharp.

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