A DRAMATIC stoppage-time winner from Ricardo Santos piled on further misery for Doncaster Rovers with Darren Ferguson’s side dropping into the League One relegation zone following a cruel defeat to Peterborough United.
Santos tapped home after Aaron Williams’ header hit the post with Thorsten Stuckmann hopelessly stranded out of goal after ill-advisedly coming off his line following a cross from Marcus Maddison.
Defeat was a bitter pill for Rovers, who had produced a much-improved performance before that desperate moment at the denouement as they tumbled to their fifth straight loss and ninth defeat in their past ten matches - with their winless streak extending to 12 games.
Both sides headed into the game on desperate runs of form, with Posh having slumped to six defeats in their past seven outings.
Each had to settle for a share of the spoils, which will do the cause of both not too much good, but Rovers at least showed traces of desire and the battling qualities that they will need in order to win their relegation battle.
James Coppinger provided Rovers with a dream start with an early opener, but Posh restored parity just before the break courtesy of Aaron Williams and despite the hosts having much the better of at times stormy second half, they could not find the winner they craved.
The opening goal that all Rovers had been so hankering for arrived just five minutes in, courtesy of a man who has come up with a host of memorable goals for the goal over a decade of sterling service in Coppinger.
The veteran home captain tucked the ball home at the far post after Andy Williams cashed in on some awful defending from Santos, with the Posh full-back dispossessed close to the byline as he was attempting the shepherd the ball out of play for a goal kick.
Coppinger’s strike put Rovers ahead in a game for the first time since January 2, with the hosts also breaking their desperate cycle of not scoring first in a league game at the Keepmoat since even further back on November 24.
Rovers showed tempo and endeavour in sporadic parts of the first period, but Posh’s response following that early blow was meaningful and they forged a leveller just before the break.
A fine cross from the game’s outstanding player in Maddison was turned in at the back post by Aaron Williams from close range with Stuckmann slow to react in goal.
Peterborough had earlier gone close with Jon Taylor firing wide while superb last-ditch defending from Aaron Taylor-Sinclair denied Williams and Gaby Zakuani should have done better with a point-blakn header following Maddison’s header.
Cedric Evina went close with a curler for Rovers, who almost regained the lead just after Williams’ leveller when a scorching Coppinger shot flashed just wide.
In comparison to the first period, the second half was rather more scrappy and edgy, with Zakuani lucky to escape a red card after clattering into the back of Nathan Tyson, with the challenge seeing both players receive treatment.
Soon after, the Posh defender also felled Andy Williams, prompting referee Sebastian Stockbridge to have a conversation with away captain Michael Bostwick - perhaps indicating that the visting centre-half would be dismissed if he made another poor challenge.
Posh manager Graham Westley took the hint and brought off Zakuani on the hour, with Andrew Fox replacing him.
Tempers were starting to get heated with Stockbridge starting to lose a bit of control in the middle, but Rovers, to their credit, soon managed to piece together a spell of stirring pressure.
Alnwick had to be alert to beat away Cameron Stewart’s firm header following a hanging cross from Tyson before Andy Williams powerfully headed wide following McCullough’s inviting cross.
Little was seen of Posh as an attacking force on the restart, with their first meaningful chance arriving ten minutes from time when Aaron Williams headed over following a good work on the right by Maddison.
Meek defending from Santos was then seized upon by Tyson, but Alnwick blocked his angled shot as he bore down on goal as the hosts pressed for a winner with Stuckmann soon called into action to field an Aaron Williams drive after the striker profited from an error from Craig Alcock.
Stuckmann then blotted his copybook after crazily coming out of goal following Maddison’s cross, with Santos netting his first senior goal, firing in a rebound after Aaron Williams header hit the post - with the home keeper stranded.
Doncaster Rovers: Stuckmann; Taylor-Sinclair, Alcock, Butler, Evina; Coppinger, McCullough, Middleton (Rowe 46), Stewart (Calder 90); Andy Williams, Tyson. Substitutes unused: Jones, MacKenzie, Mandeville, Chaplow, Keegan.
Peterborough United: Alnwick; Santos, Zakuani (Fox 60), Bostwick, Smith; Oztumer (Samuelsen 71), Forrester, Beautyman; Taylor (Coulthirst 67); Maddison; Aaron Williams. Substitutes unused: Tyler, Gillett, Fox, Nichols, Angol.
Referee: S Stockbridge (Tyne and Wear).
Attendance: 7,884 (1,443 Peterborough supporters).
For all the latest from today’s games, check out The Yorkshire Post’s live feed by clicking the link below....