Doncaster Rovers 4 Bristol Rovers 1: Grant McCann’s men send out signal with vital victory
Doncaster Rovers sent out a signal to their play-off rivals – and also their critics – by blowing away Bristol Rovers for the second time this season.
James Coppinger scored twice and made another for Mallik Wilks as Rovers ended a seven-game sequence without a league win and moved back above Peterborough United into sixth spot.
Kieran Sadlier lashed home a stunning fourth before former Doncaster loanee Jonson Clarke-Harris scored a consolation penalty.
In the space of a few days Rovers have gone from the ridiculous to the sublime after losing 4-0 in dismal fashion at leaders Luton Town on Saturday.
But some of the criticism aimed at boss Grant McCann and his players in the aftermath of the mauling was completely unnecessary and over the top.
Injuries to key midfield duo Herbie Kane and Ben Whiteman only further fuelled the doubters.
But Rovers produced the perfect response as they breezed past the Pirates with minimum fuss to reignite their play-off push.
Doncaster’s season is anything but over.
Sadlier was the beneficiary of a switch to 4-2-3-1 in the absence of Kane and Whiteman – and the winger’s lively start helped Rovers immediately get onto the front foot.
He had already sent a teasing ball into the box which just evaded Wilks before the home side went in front with just three minutes on the clock.
Coppinger, who relished his return to a more central role, was allowed to turn in the area and his left foot shot squirmed underneath goalkeeper Jack Bonham.
It was the perfect start. Nerves settled. Confidence restored.
Soon things got even better when Coppinger doubled the lead on 12 minutes. And while there was an element of fortune attached to his first, there was nothing lucky about his second – drilling home a half volley superbly from 25 yards.
Rovers now sensed blood and were in complete control.
Wilks, a threat cutting in from the right, went close to adding a third with a powerful shot.
But it was not long before the Leeds loanee latched onto a slide-rule pass from Coppinger and finished with aplomb to make it three with half an hour on the clock.
Doncaster dipped slightly before half time and were grateful to goalkeeper Marko Marosi for two excellent saves to prevent Gavin Reilly and Tom Locktyr offering the visitors a route back into the game.
Within a minute of the re-start the game was over as a contest when Sadlier ran on to the ball and unleashed a stunning curling effort into the top corner from distance.
John Marquis should have extended the lead but headed a glorious chance wide before Clarke-Harris reduced the deficit from the spot following a foul by Matty Blair on James Clarke.
The goal lifted the away side and Marosi had to produce another two superb saves to prevent further inroads, while Marquis found the net but was denied by an offside flag.
ROVERS: Marosi, Blair, Downing, Butler, Andrew, Crawford, Rowe, Coppinger (Beestin 79), Sadlier (Smith 84), Wilks (May 75), Marquis. Subs not used: Jones, Anderson, Lewis, Hasani.
BRISTOL ROVERS: Bonham, Clarke, Locktyr, Craig, Holmes-Dennis (Partington 72), Upson (Sinclair 75), Ogogo, Clarke, Jakubiak (Moore 82), Reilly, Clarke-Harris. Subs not used: Smith, Kilgour, Sercombe, Nichols.
REFEREE: Martin Coy