Rovers were left frustrated as they suffered their second defeat of the season despite an impressive performance against Portsmouth at the Keepmoat Stadium, with the visitors snatching all three points deep in stoppage time.
Gareth Evans opened the scoring in the second half, hitting Rovers on the break after a corner for the home side broke down. Rovers appeared to have secured a point when Reece James volleyed home with less than 10 minutes of the match remaining, but substitute Ellis Harrison headed home a winner for Portsmouth in injury time.
It was a match in which Rovers were largely dominant, rattling the crossbar twice and forcing numerous saves from Craig MacGillivray.
Darren Moore made one change from the side that started against Coventry City on the previous weekend. Niall Ennis was unable to recover from his injury in time which meant Alfie May was granted his first start since Rovers home win against Rotherham United and Kieran Sadlier was moved into the striker role.
Portsmouth made three changes to the side which defeated Bolton Wanderers 1-0 at home the previous weekend.
The opening exchanges were fairly even. Ben Whiteman’s early sighter was wide, while John Marquis – on his return to the Keepmoat Stadium since his move to the south coast in the summer – had his shot on the turn saved by Seny Dieng. Jon Taylor then saw one fly over and Portsmouth’s Sean Raggett headed over from a free-kick.
Rovers were unlucky not to take the lead when May’s thunderbolt effort from 20 yards rattled MacGillivray’s crossbar. Taylor forced the Pompey keeper into a save and Sadlier saw his effort blocked.
Both teams enjoyed spells of possession without really creating any chances of note – Taylor headed well wide from Coppinger’s cross and Marquis’ flick-on in the Rovers box was collected comfortably by Dieng.
Rovers created another big chance after 30 minutes. Sadlier ran unmarked into the Portsmouth box and was found at the back post with a sublime cross from Coppinger. The Rovers No.7 seemed caught between going with his head or going with his foot and in the end could only guide it wide of the post.
An intercepted pass and clearance by the visitors saw Marquis collect the ball on the half-way line. He tried to muscle his way beyond the Rovers defence but a good challenge by Brad Halliday stopped the former Rovers no.9 in his tracks. Halliday bombed forward to join the home side’s counter-attack, but his effort was under hit with his unfavoured left foot and MacGillivray was able to stop easily.
Coppinger then saw his effort from outside the box flash wide before Rovers played themselves into trouble with a misplaced pass from a free kick. With the majority of the home side forward, Christan Burgess’ interception and ball forward had Rovers on the back foot. Brett Pitman tried to pick out his midfield runners with his cutback but Dieng read it brilliant and brave keeping saw him get there ahead of the striker.
Portsmouth made a half-time change with Marquis ending his afternoon early to be replaced by Ellis Harrison.
Rovers started the second half the brighter of the two teams. Whiteman, Coppinger and Sadlier had shots saved in the opening exchanges, and Halliday saw his effort deflected wide for a corner. Whiteman’s effort was the best of these, his low driven effort just inside the post required an excellent stop to keep the score level.
Despite the early Rovers pressure, Portsmouth took the lead just before the hour mark. While Rovers were pushed high up the pitch for a corner, Portsmouth cleared their lines and launched a quick break. The strikers were able to pass around Halliday who was making up a defence of one and Gareth Evans slotted the ball beyond Dieng.
A succession of corners for Rovers demonstrated that they were still dominant in possession with efforts by Halliday, May, and Whiteman deflected wide but while Rovers continued to press, Portsmouth continued to look dangerous on the break.
What followed was a chaotic ten minutes. The match was wide open with both midfields virtually ignored. The best chance in this period went to Portsmouth. Ben Close forced an excellent save from Dieng, with his curling effort from outside the box.
The game resumed a normal pace and Rovers were able to regain possession. Taylor’s first-time effort from Coppinger’s cross looked goal bound but for an excellent block by Burgess. Coppinger went alone soon after - superb skill from the 38-year-old bought him space to shoot but the shot was always flying off target.
Whiteman thought he’d opened the scoring for the home side but his thunderbolt rattled the bar, and Halliday’s effort brushed the woodwork when he fired one in from the right hand side.
Rovers finally had the goal they deserved with less than ten minutes on the clock. May used his pace down the right to whip in a half-cross half-shot which MacGillivray parried into the centre of the box. Reece James was the first to react smashing his half-volley beyond the Portsmouth defenders.
Rovers had chances to win it in the closing minutes. May’s cross looked destined to be nodded home by Sadlier but good defending by Christian Burgess meant he was able to get in front and steer the cross out for a throw in and Whiteman’s effort from the edge of the box curled agonisingly wide.
It was the visitors, however, who got the all important third goal. Substitute Harrison’s looping header from James Bolton’s cross in injury time.