Doncaster Rovers have let the title slip from their grasp, says Ferguson

Darren Ferguson has conceded that Doncaster Rovers will not win the League Two title after they lost the lead in the division ahead of the final game.
Darren Ferguson.Darren Ferguson.
Darren Ferguson.

Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to Exeter City – Rovers’ third successive loss – saw them topple from top spot for the first time since January 3.

A dejected Ferguson fully believes new leaders Plymouth Argyle will beat Grimsby Town on Saturday to secure a title which for so long appeared destined for the Keepmoat Stadium.

“I’m bitterly disappointed,” said Ferguson.

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“To have worked so hard to get this point, top of the league for four months and in the penultimate game we’ve had the worst result of our season.

“At the moment, it’s very raw.

“We might never get in the position we’ve had to be champions of a league. That has gone now because Plymouth will do it.

“Plymouth will not be as kind next week as we were today.

“I’m very disappointed for everyone – the fans, the board, the players.”

Rovers fell behind for the seventh time in their last nine matches when Jordan Moore-Taylor ran on to Ryan Harley’s laid-off free-kick and smashed home a 30-yard thunderbolt.

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Doncaster responded well and looked to be the side in the ascendancy after James Coppinger volleyed home from a tight angle.

But the Doncaster downfall began on the hour-mark when Joe Wright handled on the line. Harley saw his penalty saved by Ian Lawlor only for David Wheeler to drill in from the rebound.

The defeat was confirmed three minutes from time when Ollie Watkins robbed Craig Alcock of possession to go clear before squaring to substitute Liam McAlinden to score.

Rovers’ final game takes them to Hartlepool United, who need a win to have any chance of avoiding relegation.

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Ferguson has called on his players to make sure they end a positive season with a positive result – they could even drop to third behind Portsmouth, who entertain Cheltenham.

“Next Saturday is now very important in the sense that we need a win before the season ends,” he said.

“It will be tough because they need a win to stay in the Football League.

“It’d be desperately disappointing if we didn’t win any of our last three games.”

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Doncaster Rovers: Lawlor, Alcock, Wright (Mandeville 67), Butler, Blair, Grant (May 79), McCullough, Rowe, Mason, Marquis, Coppinger (Williams 71). Unused substitutes: McSheffrey, Marosi, Middleton, Taylor-Sinclair.

Exeter City: Pym, Moore-Taylor, Sweeney, Brown, Wheeler, James, Taylor, Harley, Grant (Tillson 69), Watkins, Reid (McAlinden 78). Unused substitutes: Olejnik, Holmes, Ampadu, Stacey, Croll.

Referee: C Breakspear (Surrey).