PLAYER of the year Billy Sharp made a surprise return to action on the final day of the Championship season - but Rovers went out with a whimper.
Sixteen-goal man Sharp collected the club’s official annual award at Saturday night’s end of season dinner at Doncaster Racecourse.
He came on for the last half hour at the Riverside Stadium after missing two months with a groin injury - but couldn’t inspire a Doncaster side who looked desperate for the campaign to end.
Rovers finished their third season in the Championship with a run of 12 games without a win, ending up one place above the drop zone in 21st position.
They might have given their fans something to shout about had Franck Moussa not wasted a great opportunity after just nine minutes.
The midfielder latched onto a slide-rule pass from James Hayter but screwed his shot horribly wide with only Luke Steele to beat.
Sharp’s introduction - with Rovers trailing to Barry Robson’s 43rd minute free kick - provided a rare moment of joy for the travelling supporters.
He forced Steele into a save within seconds of coming on and was his usual bundle of energy and determination.
But when Leroy Lita held off Wayne Thomas to fire past Neil Sullivan on 66 minutes, it took the wind completely out of Rovers’ sails.
And a sorry second half to the season was summed up by Boro’s third, deep into stoppage time, when Adam Reach was allowed to waltz through a static defence and slot home.
* James Coppinger was named Players’ player of the year on Saturday night.