Match analysis: Doncaster Rovers 0 Blackpool 1 - Fergie and co stare into the abyss
Doncaster Rovers are staring firmly into the abyss after suffering an unthinkable defeat to relegation rivals Blackpool.
Mark Cullen’s heavily-deflected strike three minutes from time condemned Rovers and could prove the most damaging defeat of all as the slide towards League Two continues.
After losing at bottom side Colchester United on Good Friday, the second of their Easter six-pointer double-header was must-win.
But, empty-handed, Rovers now must pick themselves up off the floor and somehow find enough to overturn what has widened to a four point margin from safety.
Monday’s was a game they did not deserve to lose. But, as Darren Ferguson rightly admitted afterwards, there is no consolation when the top line reads another loss for Rovers.
Defeat yesterday condemned Rovers to the worst 12 game run in their entire history of Football League competition. No other side in the annals of the club has conspired to claim just a single point from 36 available.
They have lost seven games in a row for the first time in 18 years. It is the same period since they have failed to win in 14 league matches.
That season 18 years ago was the fateful campaign where Rovers went out of the Football League altogether. The dark days of Ken Richardson.
While no one would ever compare the two periods with any real validity, a dark cloud had certainly engulfed Doncaster Rovers and is sucking the life out of it.
It has robbed them of any form of confidence and left them in such a fragile state they can be nudged aside with relatively little fuss.
What was a pretty ferocious attacking outfit before Christmas is now toothless. They had enough of the ball on Monday to give Blackpool a real headache but they were, at most, a minor nuisance.
Heading into the final seven matches, they have found themselves in a position where an average of two points per game is needed to reach that magic 50 which is expected to secure survival.
While yesterday they improved on their previous performance, reaching the levels required to stay in League One continues to look an age away.
Had they not improved on the Good Friday performance at Colchester, they would probably have been advised to pack up for the season there and then.
All they needed to do was show a measure of battle and bottle and they were well on their way to bettering their efforts in Essex.
They did just that against Blackpool - but it was not enough.
This Rovers squad has been deflated to the extent fighting at tooth-and-claw levels looks beyond them. Had they done that on Easter Monday, they would likely have won.
Instead they probed gently against a Blackpool side who understandably looked content to settle for a draw.
The visitors set out to counterattack - which they proved rather good at - and once they had reached half time without conceding, seemed a lot more determined to see that through to the end rather than chasing a win.
The impetus was on Rovers to go for victory.
Ferguson opted for a return to a 3-5-2 formation, deploying impressive loanee Riccardo Calder as left wing back.
Mitchell Lund and Andy Williams also returned to the starting XI as Ferguson forewent the sweeping changes he had hinted at following the Good Friday horror show.
Rovers had a decent amount of grounding in possession but struggled to manufacture anything with it.
For all Rovers saw of the ball, Blackpool overall had the better of the chances and could have been well on top by half time.
Cullen twice was foiled by Remi Matthews when greater composure would have seen him fare better while Danny Philliskirk was unlucky to see a flicked effort blocked.
Rovers had their moments. Williams wrestled possession and fired just wide from the edge of the box while Craig Alcock went closest to turning home during an almighty goalmouth scramble just before the break.
Blackpool sat deeper in the second half but Rovers struggled to make their pressure count.
A real moment of calamity almost gave the visitors the lead. Matthews softly punched a corner away and David Norris looped a header back over the keeper which look destined for goal until Alcock hooked the ball off the line.
There was a feeling it was not going to be Rovers’ day on 74 minutes. Tommy Rowe worked space on the face of the box and smashed a shot which came back off the underside of the bar.
And it certainly proved to not be Rovers’ day three minutes from time.
The ball fell to Cullen who lashed a shot. Andy Butler dived in to block but looped the ball up and over Matthews to leave the Keepmoat in pure desolation.
Rovers now must somehow climb out of that devastation to ensure the abyss does not engulf them.
Rovers: Matthews, Lund, Alcock, Butler, Taylor-Sinclair, Calder (Stewart 71), Coppinger, Middleton, Rowe, McSheffrey (Tyson 71), Williams. Subs not used: Stuckmann, Evina, Chaplow, Mandeville, Longbottom.
Blackpool: Doyle, White, Aldred, Robertson, Higham, Philliskirk, Norris (Smith 84), Potts, McAlister (Osayi-Samuel 66), Blyth (Paterson 80), Cullen. Subs not used: Letheren, Ferguson, Aimson, Yeates.
Referee: Keith Hill (Hertfordshire)
Attendance: 5,575 (407 away)