Doncaster Rovers 0 Barnsley 0 - Relief all round as Reds and Rovers hold firm

Barnsley's Mamadou Thiam takes on Doncaster's Herbie Kane.' ('Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe)
Barnsley's Mamadou Thiam takes on Doncaster's Herbie Kane.' ('Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe)
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FITTINGLY on Red Nose Day, there was a spot of relief for both these derby rivals on an occasion when they could not be separated for the second time this season.

For second-placed Barnsley, on a testing night which jeopardised the continuation of their proud 17-match unbeaten league record stretching back to December 8, there was respite after a first half in which Doncaster threatened to put the game out of sight.

Barnsley's Alex Mowatt gets away from Doncaster's Herbie Kane.'('Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Barnsley's Alex Mowatt gets away from Doncaster's Herbie Kane.'('Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Rovers were entitled to be a tad relieved too after losing their way on the restart as Barnsley belatedly pushed for a victory which would have extended their lead over third-placed Sunderland to seven points.

In the end, a point apiece was the right outcome on an evening when Barnsley recorded a sixth successive clean sheet for the first time since 1984.

Despite not securing a much-needed victory after their recent dip in results, Rovers were at least consoled by a first-half performance which saw them hit the levels which saw them make an impact at the top end of League One in the first half of the season.

For Barnsley, the sight of them again overcoming adversity – after losing midfielder Kenny Dougall to injury after just 18 minutes – again hinted at a side who possess the resolve and strong chin that every successful promotion aspirant requires.

A reliable goalkeeper helps too, with Adam Davies continuing his exemplary season by making some key saves to ensure that the Reds’ proliferation of shut-outs continued.

Testament to Barnsley’s authoritative form is that a six-point gap after these sides had met at Oakwell in late November had inexorably risen to 18 ahead of this latest contest.

In contrast, after their eventful and history-equalling run to the FA Cup fifth-round, sixth-placed Rovers had hit the equivalent of a bump in the road by virtue of a six-match winless run in all competitions.

Rovers’ assertive opening certainly did not hint at a side wrestling with indifferent form, quite the opposite in fact.

Grant McCann’s side showed no lack of confidence, aplomb and appetite in a resounding and intense opening half where 
all that was missing was an opener.

That Barnsley avoided a concession by the interval would have been greeted with immense gratitude in the away dressing room after a first period in which they were comprehensively second best.

Circumstances did not help, with the clearly distressed Dougall making way, with teenager Ben Williams switching to central midfield in a line-up which looked decidedly makeshift.

But it would have been disingenuous not to pay credit to dominant Rovers, who possessed the poise in marked contrast to their opponents, who did not help themselves with a distinct lack of composure.

Mallik Wilks went agonisingly close to an opener twice in the game’s opening sparring and provided compelling evidence to suggest it was going to be a troublesome evening for Ben Williams, in for Daniel Pinillos.

First, the Leeds United loanee rose above his rival to plant a firm downward header towards goal, which was kept out by the first-class reactions of Davies, whose follow-up save to block John Marquis’s rebound was equally praiseworthy.

Wilks soon saw his hooked volley fly inches wide before Davies showed his wares again in eye-catching fashion to block a ferocious low shot from James Coppinger in a half in which the Reds had to withstand a welter of pressure for fair spells.

By contrast, Barnsley’s raids were token, with their most threatening moment coming when Jordan Williams – on his full league debut – saw his close-range effort alertly blocked by the hitherto under-employed Marko Marosi at the far post after Mamadou Thiam’s cross caught Rovers napping.

The onus was on Rovers to keep their foot firmly on the accelerator on the restart, while Barnsley were badly in need of an injection of hope, playing in front of their massed ranks of 3,700 away followers.

In the event, the half-time whistle proved a timely one for the Reds and while their second-half display was far from vintage, it at least moved up a gear in terms of proficiency and threat.

The direct route looked to be Barnsley’s best option, with the subdued Cauley Woodrow off target with a rare effort from Dimitri Cavare’s cross.

The hosts’ inability to forge a breakthrough was a further factor that was entitled to enthuse Daniel Stendel’s side heading into the final quarter of an evening which had previously been troublesome.

They were also given assistance by a drop-off in intensity from Rovers.

Woodrow saw a powerful long-ranger parried by Marosi, who then produced an accomplished save to claw away a cross-shot from Victor Adeboyejo, making his first league start since October 2.

Davies’ importance was again illustrated late on when he made another telling save to block Kieran Sadlier’s near-post effort.

Doncaster Rovers: Marosi; Blair, Downing, Butler, Andrew; Whiteman, Kane, Rowe (Crawford 67); Coppinger (Sadlier 76), Marquis, Wilks (May 82). Unused substitutes: Jones, T Anderson, Smith, Lewis.

Barnsley: Davies; Cavare, Pinnock, Lindsay, B Williams; J Williams (Hedges 81), Mowatt, Dougall (Fryers 18), Thiam (Bahre 59); Woodrow, Adeboyejo. Unused substitutes: Walton, Green, Jackson, Styles.

Referee: R Joyce (Cleveland).