Rovers return but Ferguson is downcast

MANAGER Darren Ferguson admits the gloss has been taken off Doncaster Rovers' promotion somewhat due to the manner in which they ended the season.

Hartlepool Uniteds Lewis Alessandra is challenged by Doncaster Rovers Luke McCullough as the curtain came down on the League Two regular season (Picture: Tom Banks).

After securing a place in League One next term, Rovers took just one point from the final five matches, costing themselves a golden opportunity to win the title.

Failure to beat Hartlepool United in their final game saw them miss the chance to be crowned League Two champions.

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Plymouth Argyle were held to a 1-1 draw at Grimsby Town, but Rovers could not take advantage as they suffered defeat at Victoria Park, which allowed Portsmouth to snatch the title on the final day.

While keen to remain positive over Rovers securing an immediate return to League One with very little fuss, Ferguson admitted it was difficult following their poor end to the campaign.

“We’ve ended up finishing third, but we’ve been promoted,” Ferguson said.

“It’s a funny feeling because we’ve lost the last four. I feel disappointed.

“It’s taken the gloss away from it, losing those last four games.”

Andy Williams scored in the first half to put Rovers on course for the title.

But they wilted after the break when a Hartlepool side fighting for survival piled on the pressure.

Buoyed by relegation rivals Newport County being held to a draw, the Victoria Park crowd roared their side on and they responded when former Sheffield Wednesday trainee Devante Rodney came off the bench to score his first two senior goals to complete the turnaround.

It ultimately proved in vain for Hartlepool who were relegated from the Football League with Newport beating Notts County.

And it made for a dour scenes at the final whistle as both sides reflected on differing disappointments.

Ferguson criticised his players for failing to handle the big game atmosphere.

He said: “I don’t think we handled the game well at all.

“A big thing about being a footballer is to have the composure to play in the big games and I don’t think we handled the situation at all. Play the game and not the occasion. Play the game as we have the whole season. We’ve had big games this season, where I think we’ve played very well.

“But we didn’t handle that side of things.”

Hartlepool United: Carson, Donnelly, Walker, Harrison, Magnay, Woods (Deverdics 59), Featherstone (Rodney 67), Hawkins, Alessandra, Amond, Oates (Simpson 72). Unused substitutes: Richards, Smith, Rooney, Fryer.

Doncaster Rovers: Lawlor, McCullough (Grant 53), Butler, Wright, Alcock (McSheffrey 79), Coppinger (Taylor-Sinclair 73), Rowe, Blair, Mason, Marquis, Williams. Unused substitutes: Marosi, Keegan, Mandeville, May.

Referee: M Brown (East Yorkshire).