Rovers bow out of this season's Checkatrade Trophy in the second round after a penalty shootout defeat to Rochdale at the Crown Oil Arena.
Rovers were presented with the first opportunity of the game in the opening 20 seconds, a ball from the left hand side went all the way through to on-rushing Matty Blair however his goal-bound effort was cleared off the line by Kgosi Ntlhe.
Ferguson’s side were finding a lot of joy down the left of Rochdale’s defence which saw a nice interchange of passing between Ben Whiteman and Alfie Beestin, with the latter having his shot cleared off the line this time by the retreating Joseph Bunney.
The first chance for the hosts’ came on the 11th minute as a ball down the right found the feet of Calvin Andrew, an inch-perfect pass to the edge of the box was picked up by Dale captain Callum Camps, but luckily for Marko Marosi in the Rovers goal, his effort was dragged wide of his left post.
Rovers continued to dominate proceedings at the Crown Oil Arena and it was Blair who came close once again, a sweeping move from left to right saw Issam Ben Khemis find the wing back, but Blair could not find the back of the net on this occasion but instead forced a good save from Josh Lillis.
It was the hosts who opened the scoring though as the referee awarded Rochdale a penalty on the 32nd minute, Harry Toffolo fouled Andrew Cannon in the area and gave Mr Handley no choice but to point to the spot, Matthew Gillam took the resulting spot-kick and sent Marosi the wrong way.
Rochdale were forced into a substitution just before the break as defender Ntlhe had to leave the field of play following an earlier clash of heads with Mathieu Baudry, Mark Kitching was his replacement.
Half-time | Rochdale 1-0 Doncaster Rovers
Keith Hill’s men were straight out of the blocks in the second half and nearly doubled their lead two minutes after the break, a right-footed effort from 25-yards by Camps was superbly tipped over the crossbar by Marosi in the Rovers goal.
After that early second half chance the game became a bit of a midfield battle, with both sides looking to produce that bit of quality in the game.
On the 70th minute Darren Ferguson made his first change of the game, bringing club captain Andy Butler on in replace of on-loan Norwich City defender Toffolo.
The substitution worked a treat as Rovers pulled themselves level three minutes later, a delicious through ball by Beestin found the feet of Liam Mandeville who calmly slotted the ball past Lillis in the Dale goal.
Camps was a constant pain in Rovers’ side throughout the second half and he had a chance to settle the tie in 90 minutes, however his effort was skied well over the crossbar and out of the ground.
The assault on the Rovers goal did not end there though as the hosts came looking for a winner in injury time, a ball from the left was headed goal-wards by Jordan Williams, but Alcock was back on the goal-line to clear the ball out for a Dale corner.
Rovers were forced into another substitution in stoppage time as Tommy Rowe replaced Ben Whiteman.
End of 90 minutes | Rochdale 1-1 Doncaster Rovers
As the two sides could not be separated in normal time it would come down to the lottery of a penalty shootout.
The hosts were the first to take a spot kick, which was dispatched with ease by Andrew, Niall Mason was the next to step up and he blasted his penalty straight past Lillis.
Goalscorer Mandeville scored the next for Rovers, firing his effort into the top right hand corner, Harrison McGahey was the next to find the back of the net before team-mate Bunney added a third for Rochdale.
Ben Khemis fired a left-footed penalty off the inside of the post before an inch-perfect penalty from Alcock gave Rovers the lead.
Brad Inman and Kitching scored their two penalties which left Rowe with the deciding penalty, however a fantastic save from Lillis gave Dale the victory on the night.
Full-time | Rochdale 1-1 Doncaster Rovers (Rochdale win 5-4 on penalties)
Penalties | Rochdale | Andrew (Scored) McGahey (Scored) Bunney (Scored) Inman (Scored) Kitching (Scored)
Rovers | Mason (Scored) Mandeville (Scored) Ben Khemis (Scored) Alcock (Scored) Rowe (Missed)