Doncaster Rovers 1 Accrington Stanley 2: Pressure mounts in play-off push after another night of frustration
The heat has been turned up on Doncaster Rovers in the race for the play-offs and they are not handling it at all well.
A 2-1 defeat to struggling Accrington Stanley may not have significantly weakened their standing in sixth spot but it did little to strengthen it.
And the real damage may come in the manner of the performance as for the second straight game they failed to reach anything like the levels that have become expected of Rovers this season.
First half goals from Sean McConville and Paul Smyth gave Accrington a cushion and Rovers a mountain to climb.
It took until the final minute for Rovers to hit back with Danny Andrew's deflected free kick bringing only false hope.
And now the race for sixth spot is no longer necessarily in their own hands with Peterborough United still holding a game in hand as they breathe down Rovers' necks.
In the first half they delivered a thoroughly disjointed performance lacking in composure and quality which played straight into the hands of an organised and hard working opposition who needed the points just as much as Rovers did.
From the start, just as it was four days earlier at Sunderland, Rovers were in far too much of a rush to create opportunities that they simply forgot to craft them.
Ambitious balls forward were either off target or lapped up by a grateful Accrington side for whom such defending is their bread and butter.
And when Rovers did try to play, their choice of rapid, one-touch passing was ill-advised when composure and patience on the ball was needed.
The erratic and frantic play suited Accrington down to the ground as they looked to profit on the counterattack and play in their pacy forward line.
It helped the visitors that they started much the brighter, taking confidence as Ben Richards-Everton headed an early corner over the bar.
And they made it count on 17 minutes when they took a shock but deserved lead.
Paul Smyth raced onto the ball on the right and powered a cross to the back post where McConville drilled a side foot volley beyond Marko Marosi.
The atmosphere at the Keepmoat in response was hostile and did little to encourage Rovers to settle themselves and find the composure they needed.
They did begin to see more of the ball and Mallik Wilks drilled over the bar from a trademark cut inside.
But Accrington should have doubled their advantage when McConville latched onto a ball in the box but curled wide.
Sign up to our daily newsletter
The i newsletter cut through the noise
With half time approaching, the lead was increased when Smyth again showed his pace on the right to race ahead of the Rovers defence and drill a dipping volley over Marosi.
The boos that rang out at half time were perhaps over the top, but the frustrations of supporters were completely understandable.
For the second successive game Grant McCann was sparked into a double half time substitution due to a poor first half showing.
Ben Whiteman - who had played 45 minutes for the U23s earlier in the day - was introduced alongside Kieran Sadlier with the woeful Ali Crawford and Alfie May brought off.
It delivered improvement but the size of the task only increased with Accrington's contentment at sitting on their lead.
Rovers finally found control of the game in the middle of the park but found a light blue brick wall in the final third.
The visitors continued to threaten on the break with Paul Downing forced to block a Billy Kee effort while Matty Blair almost headed into his own goal trying to nod the ball back to Marosi.
Sadlier was a lively presence but could only find opportunities from distance.
He rattled the bar with a stunning strike from 25 yards and curled wide from the edge of the box from arguably Rovers' best piece of build-up play.
John Marquis almost produced a moment of magic when flicking the ball up and volleying but his effort only grazed the bar.
There was hope in the final minute when Andrew smashed a free kick which deflected beyond former Rovers keeper Jonny Maxted.
And it looked as though they had snatched a draw when Sadlier unleashed a stinging volley, only to see it rattle back off the post.
It condemned Rovers to only their third home league defeat of the season. They cannot now afford another if they are to seal the play-off place that has long been in their grasp.
ROVERS: Marosi; Blair, Downing, Anderson, Andrew; Crawford (Whiteman 46), Kane, Rowe; Wilks, Marquis, May (Sadlier 46). Subs: Jones, Butler, Lewis, Beestin, Smith.
ACCRINGTON: Maxted; Donacion, Sykes, Hughes, Richards-Everton; Clarke, Conneely, Barlaser, McConville; Kee, Smyth (Armstrong 70). Subs: Warner, Nolan, Zanzala, Rodgers, Sousa, Williams.
REFEREE: Sebastian Stockbridge (Tyne & Wear)
ATTENDANCE: 7,222 (207 away)