Harry Forrester’s wonder goal left Doncaster Rovers looking up and Barnsley still peering nervously over their shoulders.
Rovers, despite sitting a modest 13th in League One, are now just two points adrift of the top six after super-sub Forrester produced a moment of quality not particularly in-keeping with a typically gritty, hard fought South Yorkshire derby.
Forrester’s sublime strike rather epitomised a feeling of growing optimism and confidence around the Keepmoat Stadium, as Paul Dickov’s Doncaster threaten to move through the gears after a slow start to the season.
The home side were good value for their win, enjoying the better share of possession and chances. Too often their final ball let them down, otherwise the deficit may have been greater.
Barnsley, on the other hand, appear to be stuck in second gear.
They had clearly read the manual on how to play against Rovers at the Keepmoat, defending doggedly and looking to hit their hosts on the counter attack.
The Tykes were spirited and well organised but they could have few complaints after they were undone by Forrester’s moment of brilliance.
Without a win in their last five meetings with Doncaster, Barnsley still find themselves hovering just three points above the drop zone - still yearning for a consistent run of results to lift them clear of danger.
Reds fans might be wondering, somewhat anxiously, where their season is heading.
But their Rovers counterparts should be able to see a clear improvement in their side - as pointed out by a delighted Dickov, whose team are now unbeaten in five in the league and who appear to have put their problems at the Keepmoat behind them.
“Earlier in the season we might’ve ran out of patience and ended up losing that game,” said Dickov, referring to his side’s tendency to come unstuck on home soil.
“But the lads have got the bit between their teeth at the moment.
“We’re stronger mentally now than what we were.
“It was a deserved win,” he added.
“I’m really pleased with the character of the team. There’s a lot of belief in the players at the moment.”
Rovers and their fans had to be patient.
They began the game on top and it might have been more plain sailing for them had Curtis Main not missed a gilt-edged chance during the opening exchanges, robbing Lewin Nyatanga before placing his shot wide with just Ross Turnbull to beat.
Chances came and went for Rovers, with Theo Robinson heading Richie Wellens’ cross wide, Main prodding unconvincingly at Coppinger’s centre and Kyle Bennett seeing his shot blocked after neat build-up play, while at the other end debutant Stephen Bywater saved comfortably from Dale Jennings.
Jennings had earlier tumbled in the box under a challenge from Reece Wabara that could easily have been deemed a foul by referee Kevin Wright - and which Danny Wilson later labelled a “stonewall penalty” - but luck was on Rovers’ side.
That fortune appeared to have ran out after the break as Doncaster spurned more chances to go ahead.
Main showed good feet on the edge of the box before firing hopelessly wide, Forrester drilled one just off target moments after coming on, and Coppinger was denied by his former teammate Turnbull.
Barnsley looked like they had taken the sting out of Rovers, who were staring down the barrel of a seventh nil next to their name at home this season.
Forrester, however, had other ideas.
Out of nothing he picked up possession in the left channel, showed good strength to hold off Mason Holgate, before curling home a delightful right-foot shot into the far corner.
It was a picture-book goal worthy of winning any game. Even Danny Wilson had to admit that.
“It was a fantastic finish,” said Wilson.
“But it came about from us giving possession away too cheaply.
“That was the story of our day really.
“We got into some great positions throughout the game but we’ve been too loose in possession.
“Obviously I’m disappointed with the result but I’m not too disappointed, because we had the threat there.
“It was our final ball that let us down, and that’s what we need to work at.”
There was still time for more late drama.
A whistle from the crowd even fooled both managers into thinking the full time whistle had gone, the two bosses shaking hands prior to Holgate receiving a red card when Wright resumed play.
The Doncaster-born full back was guilty of a late lunge on Wellens. Frustration had got the better of him perhaps, Wilson had no complaints with the sending-off.
Barnsley’s boss was left to reflect on a fourth straight league defeat on the road, an away record which has prevented the Reds climbing League One.
Conversely Dickov can see some light at the end of a tunnel in terms of Doncaster’s home form. Back-to-back league wins at the Keepmoat have got Rovers upwardly mobile.
If they make that three in a row against Notts County tomorrow night in their game in hand, the League One table will have a distinctly different look to it.
Rovers: Bywater 6, Wabara 6, McCullough 8, Butler 7, Stevens 6, Coppinger 6, Keegan 6, Wellens 6, Bennett 7 (Forrester 69, 8), Main 5 (Tyson 67, 6), Robinson 5 (Middleton 90). Subs: Marosi, Wakefield, McCombe, De Val.
Barnsley: Turnbull 6, Holgate 6, Nyatanga 7, M’voto 6, Smith 6, Kiwomya 6, Berry 6, Hourihane 6, Jennings 5 (Phenix 65, 5), Lalkovic 5, Waring 5 (Lita 72, 5). Subs: Scowen, Davies, Digby, Williams, Bailey.
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