Bristol Rovers slumped to their first away defeat of 2019 at the Keepmoat Stadium last night as promotion-chasing Doncaster Rovers beat them 4-1.
The Gas never looked in the game after a quick-fire brace in the first twelve minutes from Doncaster legend James Coppinger left them with a mountain to climb and set Donny on the road to victory which saw them replace Peterborough in the Playoff positions.
Malick Wilks made it three on the half hour before Kieran Sadler struck a fourth a minute after the break.
Jonson Clarke-Harris grabbed a consolation for the West Country outfit with a penalty after sixty-six minutes, but it was too little, too late for the Gas who are now looking nervously over their shoulders with just three points separating them from the League One dropzone and in-form leaders Luton Town next up at the Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
It was only Rovers second defeat on the road since manager Graham Coughlan took over from Darrell Clarke in December and the Gas boss looked to remain calm and offer an honest appraisal of his team’s performance after what was undoubtedly a difficult night at the Keepmoat.
He told the Bristol Post. ‘I’d still say we had two or three chances in the first half that might have given them a little scare but, really, let’s be honest; we didn’t lay a glove on them.’
‘They were far better than us; they were a better team – they were a well-oiled machine, that’s why they’re chasing promotion, and that’s why we’ve had a battle on our hands all season.’
Despite his team’s drubbing, Coughlin was still happy with his player’s attitude and confident they would bounce back quickly adding that. ‘This group of boys have been different class for me for three months, this group of boys react, they’re decent on the training ground – they will go again, I’m pretty sure, and I’m still very confident there’s enough points to play for to keep us safe.’
‘I ain’t going to get too heated up and start chucking my toys out the pram and making daft statements and knee-jerk reactions.’
“We’re going to go again and, for sure, they will react on Saturday.’
Luton Town head to Bristol five points clear at the top of the table on a club record undefeated run of twenty-six matches having beaten Doncaster Rovers 4-0 at Kenilworth Road last time out.
Tough night for Coughlan whose experiment with three up front failed and left him open to criticism from some supporters.
However, only two defeats on the road since he took over offer Gas fans hope for the future.
In a tight league, they should be good enough to stay up, and Coughlan is right to offer an honest appraisal and perspective on what he hopes will be just a bump in the road.
Luton will be hard, but Coughlan will be looking for a good performance and confidence going into April when they play fellow strugglers Bradford, Wimbledon and Rochdale in games which may well decide their fate.