Analysis: Refreshed Rovers write a twist in their own late, late show - Peterborough United 1 Doncaster 1
If there is one factor to show Rovers have come a long way in a short space of time it is this...
When an injury time goal was scored in their clash with Peterborough United, it was Rovers doing the scoring.
After conceding late goals cost them a barrel full of points which would have put them firmly in the play-off race, Rovers produced one of their own to continue the recent form which is pushing them ever-closer to the top six.
Ben Whiteman fired in from close range in the 94th minute to secure a well-deserved point at London Road.
Add that point to the nine picked up in the previous three games and it delivers an excellent return from the run of four games in nine days.
While Whiteman’s late, late strike added a twist to the complex narrative that has been Rovers’ season to date, it also served to demonstrate the strides that have been made over the last couple of months and, chiefly, over the last week.
There was a relentlessness yet again from Darren Ferguson’s side. They refused to allow their efforts to wane before the final whistle and it paid off.
Just before Christmas at Bristol Rovers they battled until the end to hold onto their lead.
At Peterborough on New Year’s Day they battled until the end to try to take something from a game where arguably they deserved to come away with the lot.
They dominated possession and spent long periods of both halves camped deep in opposition territory.
And they played their part in keeping quiet some of the most dangerous players in League One.
Had they shown greater threat themselves in the final third, then we could have been reflecting on an incredible festive period for Rovers.
But ten points out of 12 will certainly do very nicely indeed. As will the climb to 11th in the table and moving equidistant from the bottom four and the top six.
That they have been able to surge through Christmas with such potency has been in a large part down to the impressive management of the squad by Darren Ferguson and his staff.
Some players played all four games, most did not. And even despite an illness raging through the camp over the last few days, none of them looked particularly tired as full time approached on Monday.
They could have been forgiven for showing a little fatigue as the timer clicked past 90, given their earlier efforts.
After starting quickly and finding plenty of space in the Posh back line, Rovers suffered a blow on 14 minutes when they fell behind.
Marcus Maddison lofted a wonderfully testing free kick into the box but it was the fact Rovers failed to deal with Ryan Tafazolli’s downward header that afforded Danny Lloyd the freedom to charge in and side-foot home from close range.
It left Rovers with ground to make up and it gave Peterborough something to hold onto.
To their credit, Posh did a superb job trying to defend their slender margin.
Anthony Grant shielded the back four superbly and gave his midfield colleagues chance to drop back and build a blue wall ahead of Rovers.
And such a solid base allowed Peterborough to launch forward quickly on the counterattack and attempt to bring the likes of Maddison and striker Jack Marriott into the game.
Goalscorer Lloyd came closest to adding to their tally in the first half when he turned his man and curled a low effort from 15 yards which Ian Lawlor beat away with his legs.
Though much more sporadic, Posh seemed to carry threat every time they attacked - which could not be said of Rovers.
The visitors’ build-up play was excellent. Passing was swift and incisive, runs off the ball were strong and play was moved excellently into wide areas.
The issue was a lot of this good work broke down once it reached the final third.
They knocked on the door throughout the second half but could not get it open.
And it looked like it would not be their day when two glorious late chances were missed.
The excellent Tommy Rowe sent in a pin point cross which John Marquis tamely headed straight at Posh keeper Jonathan Bond.
And moments later May stooped to head home from close range but scuffed his effort well wide.
Rovers were not done however.
May cut inside and curled a shot on goal which was blocked by former Rovers transfer target Steven Taylor.
But the ball sat up nicely for the on-rushing Whiteman who side-footed past Bond from eight yards to send his manager scampering down the touchline in celebration.
It meant a lot to the boss.
A very happy New Year indeed.
Peterborough: Bond, Penny, Taylor, Tafazolli, Hughes, Grant, Doughty (Lopes 62), Forrester, Lloyd, Maddison (Morais 87), Marriott. Subs not used: O'Malley, Shephard, Kanu, Anderson, Freestone.
Rovers: Lawlor, Wright, Butler, Mason, Blair, Whiteman, Houghton (Kongolo71), Rowe, Mandeville (Beestin 66), Marquis, May. Subs not used: Marosi, Alcock, Baudry, Garratt, Ben Khemis.
Referee: John Brooks (Leicestershire)
Attendance: 5,173 (583 away)