DURING the pre-match preliminaries ahead of this particular South Yorkshire derby stoush, all the talk had centred around one midfielder.
It ended with conversation inescapably gravitating towards another in opposing colours.
Doncaster-born Alex Mowatt was omnipresent in the build-up. In a week which saw him sign a new Barnsley deal and his face adorn the front of the match programme alongside a centre spread, the icing did not arrive against his hometown club.
Instead, it was a day which belonged to Herbie Kane and it is easy to see why Doncaster Rovers are going bananas about him.
A ‘special talent’ is Grant McCann’s take on the Liverpool loanee and the Rovers manager is clearly on to something.
Not only does Kane bear a resemblance to a former Rovers’ engine-room great in Richie Wellens, he plays like him too – and possesses poise and authority in equal measure.
His elegance lit up a dreich afternoon and it was fitting he was at the heart of everything good from Rovers, who really should have been toasting their first win in five outings at Oakwell.
It was also apt that the Bristolian netted Rovers’ opener with a bullet header on 52 minutes following a cross from James Coppinger, who profited from lax defending by Dimitri Cavare.
His passionate celebrations in front of 1,863 Rovers contingent spoke of a player fully enamoured with life at Doncaster – and hammreed home the need for the club to keep hold of him post-January.
Should he return to Anfield in the New Year and not return to Doncaster, rest assured that there will be a queue of clubs beating a path to Merseyside.
It was a derby day when the Barnsley faithful’s thoughts also drifted towards a certain midfielder, with the absence of Kenny Dougall keenly felt.
Rovers bossed the central area, setting the tone in a high-pressing first half in which their work ethic was ferocious, with their movement and incisive first-time passing unhinging Barnsley.
It was a far from straightforward occasion for the Reds, yet they found a way to salvage something, with a razor-sharp leveller from substitute Cauley Woodrow – just two minutes after coming on – a goal that helped extend their unbeaten run at Oakwell to 16 games.
Rovers’ on-message defence switched off for perhaps the only time on 62 minutes when a free-kick was not cleared and the lurking Woodrow punished them with a deft finish.
We were nowhere near our best and to come away with a point shows that we have a bit of character and can dig deep. Going one behind is never easy, but we kept going and kept believingBarnsley goalkeeper Adam Davies
That Barnsley’s proud unbeaten home record remained intact also had plenty to do with Adam Davies, who made a blinding stoppage-time save to turn away a goal-bound strike from Coppinger in the last action of the game.
Sometimes, it is not just about turning draws into wins for aspiring sides, but losses into draws.
Davies said: “They are the big match moments that people talk about and, hopefully, I have pulled it out of the bag to get a point.
“We were nowhere near our best and to come away with a point shows that we have a bit of character and can dig deep. Going one behind is never easy, but we kept going and kept believing and Cauley got the goal for us.”
Showing responsibilty at the right times alongside Davies was Ethan Pinnock and at the other end, make-shift centre-half Niall Mason was similarly attentive.
His policy of being streetwise in dealing with Kieffer Moore as opposed to getting into a scrap that he could never win paid dividends on a day when Rovers used their heads – if not in front of goal at key junctures.
They may have cursed Davies’s late contribution and lamented an early Coppinger strike which hit the woodwork, but Rovers were also left to rue a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal – in marked contrast to their FA Cup seven-goal routing of Chorley.
Alfie May’s four-goal haul may have taken star-billing in midweek, but the wait for a first league goal of the season continues for the striker, whose moment 15 minutes from time when sent clear by John Marquis should have rendered Davies’s late heroics as academic.
Instead, May blazed horribly over as Barnsley breathed again, not for the first time.
Central to it all was undeniably Kane, who set up Coppinger’s early chance and saw a fierce second-half strike also flash wide.
It was he who also picked Cavare’s pocket at the death and set up Coppinger. Some player.
Mason said: “I thought we played really well and we had two or three chances to win the game. But it was a great team performance from the first minute of the game. I felt we were really solid.
“We started the season brilliantly and then had a sticky spell, which happens. You have just got to stick it out and stay strong.”
Barnsley: Davies, Cavare, Pinnock, Lindsay, Pinillos (Woodrow 60), Mowatt, McGeehan (Moncur 60), Potts (Thiam 80), Bahre, Hedges; Moore. Unused substitutes: Greatorex, B Williams, Adeboyejo, Brown.
Doncaster Rovers: Lawlor, Blair, Mason, Butler, Andrew, Crawford (Rowe 69), Whiteman, Kane, May (Wilks 82), Marquis, Coppinger. Unused substitutes: Marosi, Beestin, Taylor, Blaney, Cummings.
Referee: M Salisbury (Lancashire).