Below-par Doncaster Rovers crash out of Checkatrade Trophy after penalty shootout loss to Blackpool
Below-par Doncaster Rovers bowed out of the Checkatrade Trophy after losing on penalties to Blackpool.
Rovers were surprisingly poor in the first half, lacking energy and tempo, and deservedly trailed to Armand Gnanduillet’s goal mid-way through the first half.
They improved after the break and Andy Williams scored on his return to the side to take the second round tie to spot kicks.
Rovers had ridden their luck somewhat - as Blackpool twice had goals chalked off for offside - and were indebted to an excellent display from goalkeeper Marko Marosi.
But it was the Slovakian’s opposite number Dean Lyness who proved to be the hero in the shoot-out, saving penalties from Jordan Houghton and crucially Will Longbottom to earn the visitors a place in the last 16.
Ferguson threw something of a curve-ball with his team selection by making no fewer than nine changes to the side that won at Stevenage on Saturday, with only Marko Marosi and Niall Mason retaining their places.
Rovers started 3-4-3 with Cedric Evina and Riccardo Calder operating wide, and youngsters Alfie Beestin and Longbottom supporting the fit-again Williams.
Blackpool had much the better of the early exchanges and Rovers had to rely on Marosi to keep them on level terms.
Following a corner he blocked a close range shot from Will Aimson. When the ball was crossed in again he made an even better save, down to his left, to keep out a downward header from the rangy Gnanduillet, who had earlier curled just wide from distance.
After 24 minutes the visitors took a deserved lead and, from a Rovers perspective, it was far too simple.
The Tangerines strung several passes together before Mark Cullen beat Evina in the air too easily to nod a long diaganol ball into the path of Gnanduillet who fired home.
Ferguson watched the first half from the stands but, whatever the angle, it made uncomfortable viewing as Blackpool continued to control possession and carve out openings.
Gnanduillet headed another decent chance over before Mark Yeates exchanged passes with Cullen and should have done better than shoot straight at Marosi, who made another good save at the feet of Bright Osayi-Samuel on the stroke of half time.
Barring one or two early sniffs for Williams, a low shot from Beestin and a speculative effort from Calder, Rovers fans had little to cheer during a distinctly ordinary first half performance. It had to improve. And it did.
Evina and Tyler Garratt, both well off the pace, were hauled off at the break with Mathieu Baudry and Jordan Houghton joining Joe Wright in the back three.
Within three minutes of the re-start Cullen did find a way past Marosi only to see his header chalked off for offside, as Pool threatened to continue where they left off.
But, rather out of the blue, Rovers grabbed an equaliser on 52 minutes when Mason, now playing down the right, whipped in a delightful cross for Williams to expertly head home.
Gnanduillet went close with a header from a corner but the equaliser changed the pattern of the game as Doncaster finally started to enjoy more possession and play with more purpose, although they remained far from their fluent best.
Rovers survived another scare mid-way through the half when Cullen again saw a goal ruled out for offside, this time after Marosi had saved Osayi-Samuel’s initial effort.
Midfielder Paul Keegan curled a free kick just wide late on and Rovers finished the game on top but penalties were needed to decide a winner.
Harry Middleton, Beestin, Keegan, Liam Mandeville, Calder, Mason and Baudry all held their nerve from the spot.
Marosi took it to sudden death with a good save from Yeates but when Longbottom’s kick was kept out by Lyness the road to Wembley ended for Rovers, with Blackpool winning 8-7 from the spot.
*Rovers: Marosi, Mason, Wright, Garratt (Houghton 46), Evina (Baudry 46), Keegan, Middleton, Calder, Beestin, Longbottom, Williams (Mandeville 72). Subs not used: Jones, Marquis, Rowe, Walker.
*Blackpool: Lyness, Nolan, Aimson, Higham, Philliskirk, Cain (Roache 84), McAlister, Yeates, Osayi-Samuel (Cameron 78), Gnanduillet (Redshaw 71), Cullen. Subs not used: Boney, N’Guessan.
*Referee: David Coote (Nottingshire)