Ray Jest's Reliving Rovers: 1969/70 Part 7B
Rovers fan Ray Jest takes us back in time to relive classic seasons from the archives, and is currently documenting the 1969/70 campaign, with Lawrie McMenemy leading the side back in the Third Division. Check out the previous instalment here, then read on to see how Rovers got on heading into a new year and a new decade.
Tykes Turn the Screw
Rotherham had been the first of two impressive South Yorkshire Derbies for Rovers and next up the following day was a visit to the "old enemy" at Barnsley's Oakwell ground.
Barnsley were just one place above Rovers in the table and just one point separated the two teams, with Barnsley having 28 points to Rovers 27.
A win for either team could potentially see them in the promotion spots depending on other results.
Both teams set out on the day with a point to prove for as Doncaster were being beaten at home by Rotherham, Barnsley were also going down to defeat at Stockport County.
Barnsley not so long ago had been one of the front-runners in the division but a bad run of form had seen them gain only one win in their last eleven games. You would not have believed it the way they set about the Rovers though.
Doncaster were on the back foot from the start, not just because Barnsley pushed them back but they seemed as if they had come for a point with their rearguard action.
It would be their undoing as Barnsley grew more and more in confidence the longer the half went on.
With just eleven minutes on the clock Barnsley took the lead. John Bettany, who was a thorn in Rovers side all through the first half, was on hand to stab the ball home after receiving a fine through ball from Howard who had ripped the Rovers defence apart.
The visitors were now forced to try and attack but Barnsley kept them pinned in their own half for long periods, and it was no surprise when the Tykes extended their lead.
In the 45th minute, Winstanley, the Barnsley centre half, swept through in attack. Brushing aside several shaky challenges he slid the ball through to Norman Dean who made no mistake as he screwed the ball just inside the far post for Barnsley's second.
Whatever harsh words were said at half time, it certainly seemed to have an effect on Rovers as they came out for the second half all guns blazing.
Now it was their turn to peg back their opponents as wave after wave of attacks swept towards the Barnsley goal.
For all their pressure it took Rovers until the 75th minute to get themselves back into the game.
Brian Usher, uncommonly quiet during the first half, suddenly sprung to life and after beating three defenders he sent over a sublime cross for Briggs to score with a powerful header.
Rovers were now well and truly in the ascendancy and they powered forward in search of an equaliser. Usher, Johnson, Regan and Irvine all spurned chances to bring Rovers level, whilst Winstanley, Bettany and Raggett along with goalkeeper Arblaster threw forth everything they could in defence of their goal.
Time eventually ran out for Rovers and the leveler they had searched for never came. It was another derby day defeat and Barnsley had announced they were back in the promotion hunt.
Barnsley moved into 5th spot in the league and Rovers and their fans had to console themselves with the fact that they were still only 3 points behind Barnsley. They did have two games in hand on the Tykes though, along with games in hand on quite a few of the other sides in the mix.
Gilliver's Travels Bear Fruit
The first game in the new year of 1970 saw Rovers on their travels once more. This time an away match on 3rd January at the Goldstone Ground, home of Brighton & Hove Albion, who were another of the promotion-chasing pack.
Rovers thought they would be up against one of the leading marksmen in the division in Alan Gilliver, but surprisingly - and much to the pleasure of the Rovers team - the Brighton manager decided that Gilliver would start the game on the bench.
Rovers began the game well and matched their opponents man for man, attack for attack, in an evenly fought opening spell, however slowly but surely the home side began to assert themselves. Still, for all their pressure the Seagulls could not break down a resolute Rovers defence.
As much as Brighton tried and failed it was Rovers who could and should have been in the lead come half time, but the Rovers forwards failed to take the chances that came their way.
Briggs in particular missed a glaring opportunity just before half time, when he seemed to be caught daydreaming as the ball rolled past his feet to a grateful Powney in the Brighton goal.
The second half carried on much the same: Brighton doing most of the attacking and Rovers content to sit back and hit them on the counter attack.
With 60 minutes on the clock, a fine interchange of passing finished with Johnson lashing the ball into the net to put Rovers into the lead, but his joy was short-lived however as the linesman - who typically was several yards behind play - flagged for an offside against Clish.
It was a decision hotly disputed by the Rovers players but the referee’s decision stood.
On 80 minutes Brighton manager Freddie Goodwin, wary of Rovers attacking prowess, now decided to introduce Alan Gilliver to the fray and the striker had only been on the field for four minutes when he scored the only goal of the game.
Pushing down the middle, Gilliver with his back to goal waited as a cross from Lawton seemed to float towards him, and he tried an audacious overhead kick that sailed over everyone - including a stranded John Ogston - and went in off the underside of the crossbar.
It was fitting that Brighton's top goalscorer should have landed the points with such a strange goal after his colleagues had missed so many opportunities.
So another defeat for Rovers, and as one fan was heard to say as he left the ground, it was "getting to be a habit."
Three games played since Wilcockson left and three defeats, the irony was clearly not lost on the Rovers faithful.
Thanks to Ray for his contributions and we would like to field enquiries from other Rovers fans with an interest in writing about the club if they wish to join the growing ITEN community. Please get in touch with us via our website or social media pages, or else we can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
All images featured in this article come courtesy of Ray's personal scrapbook, collected from various contemporary news sources.