ROVERS ended their mini-slump with a dour goalless draw against play off hopefuls MK Dons.
But there was a great sense of opportunity lost as they let slip their share of the lead of League One as Bournemouth beat Crewe.
The only word capable of describe the game was tense, though a few would no doubt use turgid.
These were two sides both desperate not to lose, clearly feeling that conceding further ground in the race for promotion would be disastrous.
The final outcome seemed likely from the first whistle.
Rovers regained some of the defensive stability lost in defeats to Walsall and Bury but that will not be enough to secure a top two finish.
From the visitors, there was a surprising lack of fluidity in most of their play, though there were some fine passes from Darren Potter and the niggly Luke Chadwick.
From Rovers, there was a distinct lack of composure in their attacking play.
Very little went through the midfield, despite the efforts of surprise inclusion Andy Griffin, with high balls from deep the preferred route.
Without the superb hold- up play of the injured Chris Brown, Rovers lacked a real presence in the final third and opportunities failed to materialise.
The most disappointing aspect of the performance from Rovers was that it lacked the vigour of a side presented with the opportunity to top the table.
The visitors enjoyed the better of the chances throughout the game but Rovers had perhaps the more gilt-edged opportunity through Billy Paynter.
It could be argued that neither side truly managed to settle but the Dons found their feet sooner than their hosts.
Daniel Powell collected a superb ball into the box from Potter and laid off to Ryan Harley who forced a fine save from Gary Woods while Izale McLeod could only send the rebound into the side netting.
It took Rovers until the 22nd minute to register a chance and there was more than a little of the speculative about Griffin’s long-range strike which drifted wide.
McLeod really should have done better when Tommy Spurr’s tackle on Powell on the edge of the area left him in acres of space but he could not curl his strike the right side of the far post.
Dean Bowditch fired a poor effort after space opened up on the edge of the box just before the half hour.
Rovers were caught out defending high up the pitch on a few occasions but the Dons failed to find the punishing blow.
Jamie McCombe missed his claim for a long clearance allowing McLeod in but Woods was equal to his effort.
Jon Otsemobor really should have put the Dons ahead when he met Harley’s corner unmarked but bulleted a header over the bar.
The best chance of the entire game fell to Rovers on the stroke of half time.
David Cotterill galloped down the right, squared to Paynter eight yards out who opted to put everything into his strike which sent it over the bar with the goal gaping.
The pattern of the first half continued in the second with the Dons looking dangerous on the break.
Martin Woods was lucky not to see red after hauling down the breaking McLeod with a yellow card hanging over him from a foul on Chadwick in the first half.
McLeod was gifted far too much space as he galloped from well inside his own half to the edge of Woods’ area only to power a shot over the bar when more composure was required.
For Rovers, the best of the second half opportunities saw Paynter scuff a header wide from a high James Husband cross.
The point was enough to keep Rovers second in League One, a point off new leaders Bournemouth,
The rot has been stopped but there is plenty of improvement needed to get Rovers back to where they were at the end of January.
Rovers: Woods 7, Quinn 6, McCombe 6, Jones 6, Spurr 7, Cotterill 7, *Griffin 7, Woods 6, Husband 6, Coppinger 7, **Paynter 6, Subs: *Harper 46 6, ** Sinclair 69 6. Subs not used: Maxted, Martis, Wakefield, Fowler, Bennett.
MK Dons: Martin 6, Otsemobor 6, Williams 6, MacKenzie 6, Lewington 6, Powell 8, Potter 6, *Chadwick 7, Harley 7, Bowditch 6, McLeod 7, Subs: *Chicksen 73 6. Subs not used : Flanagan, Baldock, Lines, Kouo-Doumbe, Smith
Referee: David Webb (Lancashire)
Yellow cards: M Woods (Rovers), MacKenzie (MK Dons)