Scunthorpe United 2 Doncaster Rovers 0: Sluggish Rovers outfought and outclassed by Iron
The feeling of deja vu is overwhelming at Doncaster Rovers and it shows no sign of lifting.
It was the same old story as they slumped to a seventh defeat in eight games on Tuesday night, beaten comfortably by near-neighbours Scunthorpe United.
There was another tale of a side devoid of confidence, composure and invention.
And the chance of a happy ending to the story looks less and less likely.
This was Rovers’ big opportunity to put some daylight between themselves and the bottom four. But with their only remaining game in hand, they failed to turn up again and were deservedly beaten.
Chance gone, meaning their advantage is just two points. And while there may be 11 games left to play this season, Rovers only look like sinking given the standard of their recent performances.
Darren Ferguson made a point of emphasising the need to end the trend of conceding the first goal when he spoke to the media on Monday. So he must have wanted to tear Glanford Park apart when Rovers did indeed concede first for the tenth time in the last 11 matches, with just seven minutes gone. Tom Hopper turned in from close range for Scunthorpe.
And as he hoped to see half time personnel and system changes take shape, Scunthorpe doubled the advantage 13 minutes into the second period through a David Mirfin header.
It helped Iron to their first league double over Rovers for 25 years.
Ferguson - who opted to return to a 3-5-2 system - promised a battle of a derby game in difficult conditions at Glanford Park.
Swirling rain and a poor pitch accounted for the conditions but the battle was all too one-sided with Scunthorpe looking incredibly comfortable. A traditional derby this was not.
There was a swift pace to the game but after conceding early, Rovers were always on the chase and Scunthorpe were all too composed in their defensive duties.
But for heroics from Thorsten Stuckmann in the first half, Scunthorpe could have enjoyed an even more comfortable a night’s work.
Granted, it could have all been different had Rovers taken their one and only golden chance with just three minutes gone.
They broke well from a corner and, after Nathan Tyson was tackled, the ball rolled to Lynden Gooch on the corner of the box who curled just wide of the far post.
It was agonisingly close but it was as close as it would come for Rovers who would quickly find themselves behind.
A swift one-two saw full back Conor Townsend leave Mitchell Lund for dead and race clear down the left before sending in a low cross which Hopper turned in from close range.
Scunthorpe were much sharper and looked much more up for the battle of a derby game in the difficult conditions.
The hosts were quicker to everything and much more composed.
Rovers on the other hand were sloppy and pedestrian in their play, looking sapped of confidence once again which played into the hands of Scunthorpe.
Rovers looked nervous defensively, often making panicky clearances. Stephen Dawson almost doubled Scunthorpe’s advantage on 27 minutes. A Townsend cross evaded everyone and rolled out to Dawson who smashed first time with the outside of the boot, curling the ball just wide of the far post.
Ferguson eventually switched to a 4-1-4-1 formation but it failed to give Rovers any greater foothold on the game.
They were indebted to Stuckmann for keeping them in touch late in the half. He stretched full length to tip a Paddy Madden shot wide and tipped over acrobatically from Dawson from the subsequent corner.
Andy Williams was thrown on from the bench at half time with a switch to a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield.
The hosts almost went two up soon after the break when Madden chipped in for Hopper who clipped a shot which Stuckmann parried.
But Scunthorpe soon doubled their advantage. A corner was swung in with Mirfin powering a header in from seven yards.
With the cushion, Scunthorpe were comfortable and looked much more likely to grab the next goal. It was a stroll to the finish with Rovers worryingly not in sight - just like an end to their horrendous run of form
Scunthorpe: Daniels, Clarke, Mirfin, Wallace, Bishop, Townsend, Dawson (King 81), Hopper (Wootton 84), Ness, O’Brien (McSheffrey 88), Madden. Subs: Anyon, Laird, Vose, Adelakun.
Rovers: Stuckmann, Lund (Williams 46), McCullough, Butler, Taylor-Sinclair, Evina, Chaplow, Keegan, Calder (Grant 59), Gooch, Tyson. Subs not used: Jones, MacKenzie, Middleton, Stewart, Mandeville.
Referee: Kevin Wright (Cambridgeshire)