Darren Ferguson was left ruing an “abject” first half performance after watching his side exit the Checkatrade Trophy to Blackpool on penalties.
A Rovers team showing nine changes from the one at Stevenage flattered to deceive for 45 minutes - and fell behind to Armand Gnanduillet’s 24th minute strike. Ferguson’s men got back on level terms through fit-again striker Andy Williams, who was making his first start since early October following an ankle ligament injury.
But Rovers’ interest in cup competitions ended for the season after the Tangerines won 8-7 from the spot.
Ferguson said: “I’m disappointed we’re out of the competition. It’s always unfortunate to go out on penalty kicks.
“The second half was clearly much more what I expected from the night.
“If we’d have played like that in the first half we’d have probably gone through. But we didn’t.
“I was a lot more pleased with the second half. We were on the front foot, a lot more aggressive and we had more of a tempo to our game.
“But unfortunately we’ve gone out of a tournament that everyone one knows I’ve held in high regard.
“It’s a pity we’ve gone out but the reason for that is our abject performance in the first half.”
He added: “All the things I wanted they didn’t do [in the first half]. There was a lack of energy and tempo. It seemed hard work for some people to run around, which is the bear minimum that I require.
“Second half we were far better. I was pleased with them second half.”
Williams gave Ferguson a nudge ahead of Saturday’s trip to promotion rivals Plymouth Argyle with a well-taken header - his eighth goal of the season.
“It was a positive Willo coming back and playing for 70 minutes and scoring,” said Ferguson.
“He’s come through it fine. We’ll assess him on Thursday but the injury is fine now.
“For him to score a goal on his first game back is very pleasing because he’s a confidence player.
“I’ve got really good options now in attack.”