Match report: Hartlepool United 2 Doncaster Rovers 1 - Third placed finish for Rovers

Doncaster Rovers finished third in League Two after throwing away a lead and a glorious chance to be crowned champions at Hartlepool United.

Saturday, 6th May 2017, 4:41 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:58 pm
Hartlepool United v Doncaster Rovers

Rovers capitulated badly in the second half in the face of a desperate onslaught from the hosts, for whom victory was a must.

Andy Williams put Rovers ahead in the first half and for so long they were sitting at the top of the table.

But former Sheffield Wednesday trainee Devante Rodney came off the bench to score his first two senior goals to complete a turnaround and give Hartlepool hope of survival, which was ultimately dashed by events elsewhere.

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A win would have been enough for Rovers to win the league, with Plymouth Argyle held to a draw at Grimsby Town.

But it was Portsmouth who were ultimately crowned champions as Rovers were condemned to a fourth straight defeat in a disappointing end to a brilliant campaign.

It was the sort of last day drama Rovers have become accustomed to over the last few years.

One of three teams able to win the title, they knew it was out of their hands but had more than enough hope of producing another memorable conclusion to a season.

Hosts Hartlepool faced an even greater situation, needed to win to have any chance of overtaking Newport County and avoiding relegation out of the Football League.

Ferguson made one change to the side that lost to Exeter the previous week with Andy Williams returning in place of Conor Grant, who dropped to the bench.

Though they started the game off the top of the table for the first time in four months, it did not take long for Rovers to return to the summit.

Plymouth fell behind in the first minute at Grimsby, putting Rovers back on top, a roar in the away end at Victoria Park confirming things were going their way.

Rovers fired the first warning shot in their attempt to force the issue of the afternoon themselves, when Williams turned smartly in the box and shot, only for Trevor Carson to parry out for a corner.

Hartlepool began the game with real intensity, befitting their do-or-die situation in the final relegation place.

But Rovers maintained a calm head, soaking up early pressure well and looking to break forward quickly themselves. Joe Wright in particular was a rock in the back four.

Hartlepool continued to come forward and Lewis Alessandra drilled narrowly wide from the corner of the box in their best effort of the early stages.

But the hosts were struggling for a real sight of goal after swarming forward in numbers.

Events elsewhere took Rovers back off the top of the league with Portsmouth going ahead against Cheltenham.

Rovers began to see more of the ball but were guilty of trying to force things on too many occasions.

But they did manage to go in front in controversial circumstances on 31 minutes.

Coppinger lofted a ball into the box and it was knocked down with Williams hooking in from close range.

Assistant Helen Byrne initially flagged for offside but after consultation with referee Mark Brown, the goal was given, putting Rovers back atop the table.

It was a hammerblow to Hartlepool, who soon suffered another when Newport took the lead against Notts County.

Goalmouth action was scarce for the remainder of the half but the pattern of the game continued in the same manner.

And the second half started with Hartlepool again pushing forward hard.

Lawlor produced a brilliant save to keep out a smashed effort from Alessandra from the left corner of the box, parrying superbly and collecting at the second attempt.

Rovers began to look after the ball much better and looked to be stifling the game effectively.

Matters elsewhere began to effect the mood of the crowd. An equaliser for Plymouth at Grimsby quietened the away end, setting nerves jangling that it may get taken out of Rovers' hands once again.

And as Newport were pegged back level by Notts County, a deafening roar erupted around Victoria Park with home supporters dreaming of survival once more.

It seemed to have a positive effect on their team who found a second wind and pushed on.

Lawlor produced a vital save from a close range hooked volley

If the roar was deafening before, it blew eardrums when Hartlepool levelled on 74 minutes.

Andy Butler was robbed of the ball inside the box by Padraig Amond, who drilled across goal and after a half clearance, Rodney smashed into an empty net.

From the equaliser, there only looked to be one winner as Hartlepool surged forward.

Rodney grazed the bar with a direct cross from the left as Rovers struggled to clear their lines.

And Hartlepool completed the turnaround on 83 minutes. Amond went clear from a long clearance and squared to Rodney who showed incredible composure to take a touch and slot home, sparking a mini-pitch invasion.

It was Rovers' turn to push, though they struggled to reset themselves.

Conor Grant curled wide with a low effort in the closest they came to getting level.

The atmosphere was sucked out of Victoria Park however when Newport went back in front, putting Hartlepool down despite their brave effort.

It ensured that the seven added minutes were incredibly long as both sides faced up to missing out on their respective goals, Portsmouth thrashing Cheltenham to take the title at the death.

Hartlepool: Carson, Donnelly, Walker, Harrison, Magnay, Featherstone (Rodney 67), Woods (Deverdics 59), Hawkins, Alessandra, Amond, Oates (Simpson 72). Subs not used: Fryer, Richards, Smith, Rooney.

Rovers: Lawlor, Blair, Wright, Butler, Alcock (McSheffrey 80), McCullough (Grant 54), Mason, Rowe, Coppinger (Taylor-Sinclair 73), Marquis, Williams. Subs not used: Marosi, Keegan, Mandeville, May.

Referee: Mark Brown (East Yorkshire)