YOU have to go back to March 23, 1985 – in the same month that the Miners’ Strike ended – for the last time that Doncaster Rovers triumphed in Rotherham.
The short trip has not exactly been paved with gold since. Quite the opposite in fact, with Rovers having not so much as a win to their name from an unlucky 13 visits since, with that forgettable sequence now featuring 12 defeats.
In that regard, it was normal service last night. For Rovers supporters, nothing in this world can be said to be certain as death, taxes and failing to win in Rotherham.
Seeing their side play a full part in a highly watchable occasion may have been a slight consolation – in a derby when a largely greenhorn Doncaster side had come from behind to lead 2-1 on an evening when captain-for-the-night Joe Wright scored emphatic headers for each side. But not too much.
It was a local affair which did bring plenty to the table. A spectacular own goal and an equally eye-catching Rovers leveller followed by a spot of controversy, penalty save and another twist.
The eagerly-awaited first sight of French winger Julien Lamy in a competitive fixture may have been the main talking point ahead of the game for the hosts, but after it, the discussion all centred on another debutant in Trevor Clarke.
An interval replacement for hamstring-injury victim Freddie Ladapo, the former Shamrock Rovers player – playing catch-up after suffering a knee injury on the first day of the pre-season after signing in the summer – memorably made for lost time in a major way in an unaccustomed wing role.
After neatly setting up a leveller for Carlton Morris, the Irishman won a penalty after being fouled by compatriot Shane Blaney – missed by Morris – and then took matters into his own hands before coolly steering home a winner low past Dublin-born Rovers custodian Ian Lawlor.
It proved quite a night for those associated with the Emerald Isle, with former Cork City player and ex-Republic of Ireland Under-21 player Kieran Sadlier having earlier cancelled out Wright’s early own goal with a magnificent first-half leveller.
But amid all the entertainment for the 2,192 crowd to mull over, there was a predictable outcome. A home win.
Inspection of the teamsheet ahead of kick-off showed a much more experienced hue to the home line-up and the natural assumption that the Millers’ seniority would be the dominant feature was backed up by much of the first-half evidence.
Few could argue with the merit of their lead, even if it arrived in fortuitous fashion, when Wright’s bullet header flew into his net after an admittedly excellent cross on the right from Billy Jones.
With Dan Barlaser, Ben Wiles and Shaun MacDonald in control in midfield and the hosts imposing their physicality on an inexperienced Rovers side featuring just two starters from the weekend, it had the air of a routine night for United.
But Rovers’ response was characterful, with the hosts reckoning without the choice intervention of Sadlier, who again displayed his penchant for the special, with his thumping long-range strike drawing the visitors level out of nothing.
Lamy’s similarly eye-catching effort from distance which clipped the bar almost produced another head-turner before the interval and the action continued apace on the resumption.
After unwittingly putting the Millers ahead in the very same net, Wright was entitled to feel rather better about himself when his looping header sailed in following Alfie May’s centre to put Doncaster 2-1 up.
The home bench, who had been desperately trying to get substitute Jamie Lindsay onto the pitch when they were temporarily down to 10 men after MacDonald had gone off, were incensed.
But they were up on their feet for a more pleasurable reason midway through the half.
Morris, who had earlier passed up a golden chance to level, tucked the ball home after being found by Clarke, only to then see Lawlor guess right to save his weak penalty. The stage was then set for Clarke, who finished nicely to win it after Morris returned the assist compliment.
Rotherham return to League One action on Saturday, away to Blackpool, while Doncaster travel to Oxford.