It has been an atrocious start to the campaign for Rovers in what they hope will be a season of transition as opposed to an attritional scrap for survival.
Never one to pull any punches, manager Richie Wellens – whose side had managed one goal in seven matches going into this derby – recently spoke about things getting worse before they get better for Doncaster’s players who have done it tough both this season and in the final third of the previous season.
After just over a quarter of an hour of this latest game with Rotherham, who eased to victory in the league meeting on August 28, the visibly exasperated Rovers chief will have felt the full force of that statement with his side trailing 3-0 and looking like conceding a cricket score.
Rotherham, who had never previously won at the Keepmoat Stadium, filled their boots. They were quicker, stronger, fitter and more organised and purposeful than the hosts and the chasm between the sides was alarming.
Yet the temptation to label this as men against boys should have been tempered. There was experience in the Millers ranks, but also eight changes from the recent league meeting, with Jake Hull and Josh Vickers making their debuts alongside deadline-day signing Will Grigg.
This was not their ‘A Team ‘ against a Rovers side who handed debuts to the relatively experienced striking duo of Joe Dodoo and Jordy Hiwula, who made their first appearance in a line-up also containing the likes of Tommy Rowe, Ben Close and John Bostock.
Booed early on by home supporters, Kieran Sadlier almost provided a quick riposte on two occasions. But it was not long before those present with home affiliations were questioning their decision to attend.
A cross-shot which floated in from Mickel Miller – fresh from his dismissal in the league game – may have owed more to luck than judgment, while there was an element of fortune after Hakeem Odoffin’s thundering drive bounced off the back of home keeper Louis Jones and into the net after shuddering the bar.
Yet there was nothing fortuitous about the Millers’ turbo-charged opening, which Rovers could not cope with.
It also yielded another goal in a blitz of three inside three minutes when Freddie Ladapo netted following a fine defence splitting pass from Dan Barlaser and will have had seasoned Millers fans harkening back to a 6-2 League Cup rout at the old Belle Vue in 1990 when Bobby Williamson netted a hat-trick.
In the event, the goal that the away following craved and the home support anticipated with an air of inevitability took 49 minutes to arrive.
Grigg’s decision to snub Doncaster and join Rotherham provided a talking point in these parts on deadline day and he soon endeared himself with his new club with the sort of chance that all strikers wish for when making their introductions.
Ladapo’s shot hit the post and Grigg tucked away the rebound.
The night was in danger of getting seriously ugly with Ladapo going close twice and a brilliant finger-tip save from Jones keeping out Joe Mattock’s superb inswinging free-kick before the inevitable fifth arrived with a notable first for the club from Hull who got the final touch following Barlaser’s corner.
Wellens’s observation ahead of the game that Rotherham would still be strong, regardless of the number of changes, proved a prophetic one on the night.
Every time that the Millers attacked, it was no overstatement to say that a goal looked in the offing and a sixth came when Mattock headed in.
As for what he has at his own disposal, Wellens clearly has some nice footballers in his ranks such as Matt Smith and Close to name but two.
Unfortunately, as it stands, there is a crippling lack of conviction, confidence and ruthlessness in both boxes, with the absence of key personnel compounding matters significantly.
An early-season drama will lurch into a full-blown crisis if things do not change fast.