Derby lays down marker for Doncaster Rovers and Barnsley

Rovers caretaker boss Rob Jones
Rovers caretaker boss Rob Jones

The build-up to the latest clash between Doncaster Rovers and Barnsley was unusually hospitable rather than hostile.

In a ‘hands across South Yorkshire’ act, the two clubs agreed to a reciprocal ticket offer in a bid to pack out their respective stadiums for the two derbies.

A shot from Richard Chaplow

A shot from Richard Chaplow

The doors of the Keepmoat were flung open to almost 3,000 Reds supporters on Saturday - but a £20 ticket price was about as far as the hospitality went.

There was the gift of an equalising goal as Rovers once again were all too giving when defending set-pieces.

But, given the conclusion to the game, there will be few Reds supporters rushing to write a glowing review of their Keepmoat day out on TripAdvisor.

Barnsley followers for long periods looked like being the ones set to head home the happier.

Rovers' Keshi Anderson fends off Lewis Nyatanga and Alfie Mawson

Rovers' Keshi Anderson fends off Lewis Nyatanga and Alfie Mawson

But Rovers’ late rally was capped with a smashed near-post finish from Richard Chaplow on 90 minutes to give the home support real value for money.

The day out provided a useful marker of where each team is currently placed within the grand scheme of League One.

For Barnsley, there was more evidence to back up what is already well-established opinion on Lee Johnson’s side.

They are a talented, young side that can be both brilliant and frustrating in equal measure.

Richard Chaplow celebrates his late winner

Richard Chaplow celebrates his late winner

Some of the build-up play they produce is fantastic yet there remains a lack of a killer edge, something which could easily hold them back this season.

The Reds passed circles - or rather, triangles - around their neighbours for long periods.

That was particularly the case midway through the first half and for a good 20 minutes after the break.

But they failed to make it count. Other than in the most simple of headers from Sam Winnall from a set piece of all things.

The visiting Kadeem Harris is proving to be a real find. The on-loan Cardiff City winger terrorised Rovers down the left flank, cutting inside to charge down on goal.

Rovers even switched things round defensively in an attempt to nullify the threat with the left-sided Cedric Evina switching to right-back in the hope of tracking Harris.

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It is inside the box, however where there is still work to be done for Johnson.

A consistent supply of goals from the team would transform them from one packed with young potential into something with a chance of truly threatening at the top end of the division.

Rovers, in contrast, are looking to find a way of moving away from the bottom end after their surprisingly poor start.

And they are doing so in a period of uncertainty given Rob Jones’ continued status as interim boss and the prospect of a new manager altogether arriving within the next week.

Victory will have done no harm to Jones’ chances of keeping hold of the reins permanently - though he certainly needed it after failing to pick up a three pointer in the previous four matches.

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His hopes will also have been boosted by the continued steady progress of Rovers under his command.

They are beginning to rediscover their scoring touch.

Four goals from two games within a week was something of a pipe dream not too long ago.

Progress as a whole is slow, however.

They are all too easily shut out of games by opposition which seek to control possession, as Barnsley discovered on Saturday.

Jones has not been able to change that, nor has he solved the issues which appear when defending set-pieces.

It remains to be seen whether the progress made is at a swift enough pace to satisfy Rovers’ owners that he is the man to get them moving towards the top end of the table.

These are two clubs that should be going places and both in the same direction.

Whether the captains of the respective ships can find the means to get them there is another question.

Hostility - or should that be hospitality - resumes on February 20.