Doncaster Rovers 0 Blackpool 1: Lady Luck the latest to turn on desperate Doncaster

It was the slice of luck a team needs when they are down there, the kind of wicked deflection that can nestle in the back of the net and transform a desperate situation into a surprise, and much-needed victory.

Doncaster Rovers' players show their dismay after the late goal by Blackpool. Picture: Simon Hulme.

That is was Blackpool who celebrated such good fortune in Mark Cullen’s unintentionally-diverted 87-minute winner says everything about the crisis engulfing Doncaster Rovers.

In recent times it has been better opposition or their own self-inflicting tendencies which have conspired against a side that had not won for 13 league games.

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On Good Friday, it was a collective collapse at Colchester that prompted manager Darren Ferguson to question the commitment of his players.

Doncaster Rovers' manager Darren Ferguson can't huide his disappointment after Blackpool's winner. Picture: Simon Hulme

On Bank Holiday Monday, even Lady Luck deserted them.

And how different it could have been had she chosen to smile on Rovers. Seventy-five minutes in to a game low on quality but rich in endeavour from a Rovers side stinging from Ferguson’s criticism, on-loan Rovers midfielder Tommy Rowe unleashed a 20-yard strike that clattered the underside of the bar and dropped agonisingly the wrong side of the line from a Doncaster perspective.

Twelve minutes later, 407 delirious Blackpool fans were celebrating as Cullen stole in behind Mitchell Lund to hit a shot that was headed straight at goalkeeper Remi Matthews, only for Andy Butler’s despairing boot to divert it over the shot-stopper’s head and into the corner of the goal.

“You make your own luck,” lamented Ferguson afterwards, “but when Rowe hits the underside of the bar you’ve got to ask yourself is it going to be your day?”

Doncaster Rovers' manager Darren Ferguson can't huide his disappointment after Blackpool's winner. Picture: Simon Hulme

It has not been Rovers’ day too often since the turn of the year, when a 3-0 win at Southend on January 2 had moved them up to 11th, within touching distance of the play-offs.

The statistics since those heady days point to relegation.

Eleven defeats in their last 12 games. Fifteen games, 14 of them in League One, without a win. Two points collected in their last nine games at the Keepmoat.

All that adds up to a four-point gap to bridge to reach safety, and only seven games in which to do it. After an abysmal Easter period, when they lost to two of their rivals in the battle for survival, Rovers look down and out.

Spirit-wise, there appears a lingering fight, but they are shorn of leaders; only James Coppinger exists from the good old days of Championship football which seems a lot more distant than two years ago.

Despite their recent travails, Doncaster started with purpose. Set up in a 3-5-2 formation, Ricardo Calder was a creative outlet in the left wing-back slot.

One of his probing runs resulted in a cleared cross that fell at the feet of Harry Middleton, whose volley from the edge of the area flashed wide.

For all their willingness, though, the hesitancy and poor decision-making which had crippled Rovers in their wretched run was never far away.

Middleton was the culprit of such carelessness when his misplaced pass resulted in a booking for Butler and a let off for goalkeeper Matthews from the subsequent free-kick, as Clark Robertson’s header drifted wide.

Blackpool did not always require a helping hand. Brad Potts delightfully played a reverse pass that took out three defenders and found Danny Philliskirk with only Matthews to beat but the goalkeeper was equal to it.

Blackpool’s threat came via their livewire combination of Cullen up front and Potts supporting from deep. Twice Cullen fashioned space for himself, first to drag a centre across the face of goal and then to force another save from Matthews after cutting inside Aaron Taylor-Sinclair.

Doncaster had their moments; Andy Williams shaped a shot wide before Alcock saw his goalbound effort blocked on the line.

Rovers barely had time to curse their luck as Cullen was sent scampering away again. He delightfully cushioned Potts’ raking ball to give himself space but Matthews denied him.

After the break there was only one team trying to win the game, with Rovers making most of the running and Blackpool content to threaten on the counter.

Still Rovers found the final ball elusive, Rowe’s assault on the crossbar the closest they came.

At the other end, Matthews needed the help of Alcock to keep David Norris’s header out. And then came the coup de grace, Potts slipping the ball in behind Lund and there was Cullen, taking a touch before striking a shot that deflected off Butler and dropped over the line.

Doncaster Rovers: Matthews; Alcock, Butler, Taylor-Sinclair; Lund, Coppinger, Middleton, Rowe, Calder (Stewart 71); McSheffrey (Tyson 71), Williams. Unused substitutes: Stuckmann, Evina, Chaplow, Mandeville, Longbottom.

Blackpool: Doyle, White, Robertson, Aldred, Higham; Philliskirk, Norris (Smith 84), Potts, McAlister (Oyasi-Samuel 66); Blyth (Paterson 80), Cullen. Unused substitutes: Ferguson, Letheren, Aimson, Yeates.

Referee: K Hill (Hertfordshire).