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Rovers 0 Blackpool 1

17 September 2019

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Rovers suffered their first league defeat of the season as late sucker punch from Armaud Gnanduillet in injury time sealed a 1-0 win for visitors Blackpool at the Keepmoat Stadium.

After a scrappy but balanced opening 45 minutes, Rovers had most the second half's best chances. Niall Ennis had one cleared off the line and both Ben Whiteman and Jon Taylor forced good saves from Seasiders stopper Jan Alnwick. However, in the dying seconds Rovers were hit on the break and substitute Gnanduillet was there to head past Ian Lawlor.

Darren Moore made just one change to his side that drew with Ipswich Town just four days earlier with Kieran Sadlier coming in to replace James Coppinger. Simon Grayson made two changes to his side that were beaten 3-0 on the weekend with Ryan Hardie and Matty Virtue coming into the starting XI.

Blackpool forced the first half chance within seconds of kick-off - a big looping ball dropped awkwardly onto Ian Lawlor’s goal line, but Lawlor got a good fist to punch it away before being fouled by the oncoming striker

Rovers tried to play their way into the game – as they had done in all their previous matches – but Blackpool were quick to shut down and restricted Rovers to passing around the middle of the park.

Blackpool were not fairing much better with neat quick passing but not really going anywhere. Joe Nuttall’s effort which skewed well wide from 20 yards summed up the opening exchanges.

A few late challenges from the visitors let Rovers know they were in for a game, none more so that Matty Blair who – after being fouled twice in quick succession - was forced off the pitch to be replaced by Alfie May.

The change seemed to affect the visitors more than the home team and sparked a dominant passage of play for the men in red and white. Crosses from both Sadlier and Reece James went begging and May’s ball into the penalty spot would have been inviting but for the figure of Curtis Tilt who read it well and cleared easily.

Hardie proved a handful for the Rovers defence. A big ball over the top found the run of the striker who had expertly evaded the offside trap outpacing the Rovers centre backs – the visiting no.9’s first touch took him too wide to trouble Lawlor on that occasion. He did trouble Lawlor with his next effort.

After wriggling free of Tom Anderson, he fired from the edge of the box and Lawlor pulled off a great save at full stretch to deny him.

At the other end a trademark run from wide saw space open up for Sadlier - his left footed effort had Jak Alnwick in the Seasiders’ goal worried but ultimately went the wrong side of the post. Ben Whiteman then attempted to dink the keeper with a chip to the far post – it was over Alnwick but also over the crossbar.

A one-two between Jon Taylor and James down the left-hand side left three Blackpool players stranded – Taylor’s cross found Ennis but one too many touches for the Wolves loanee allowed to Virtue to make a block and divert the ball wide. Whiteman’s half-volley off the resulting corner was hit with some venom but was blocked en route.

As with the first half, the first half-chance of the second 45 went the visitor’s way within seconds of the start. Nuttall probably should have done better with his header.

Some good passing play around the box set Whiteman up for his best chance of the evening – his shot looked destined to nestle inside the post but for a superb save by Alnwick down to his right. The skipper went close again soon after, this time pulling his shot just wide. At the other end, Jordan Thompson fired wide from distance for Blackpool.

Rovers caused their own problems when Lawlor’s ball out of the back found the feet of Hardie leaving him one-on-one with the keeper. The Irishman redeemed himself making a great stop to deny the striker - who probably should have ensured his side took the lead. Anderson was there to tidy up the follow-up effort.

This sparked a chaotic five minutes for the home side - they were forced to block shots from Thompson and defend a dangerous cutback from Liam Feeney.

Arguably Rovers’ biggest chance of the night fell to Ennis with twenty minutes of the game remaining, Whiteman’s chipped forward pass was played perfectly into the path of the striker. His first touch was excellent, he rode a reckless challenge from Alnwick who had come flying off his line, and did well to dig a shot out with his right foot. Tilt was there to head off the line.

Ben Sheaf’s clever touch found May unmarked at the edge of the box, quick feet took him beyond his marker, but an extra touch gave the defenders chance to get back and deflect the wide. Taylor’s effort from distance then required a good stop from Alnwick down to his left, and a desperate block by the Blackpool defence was all that denied Ennis from close range.

With the home side pressing higher up the pitch, they were hit on the break in the dying seconds of injury time when Blackpool broke in numbers. Feeney’s cross was headed home by Gnauduillet from close range to seal Rovers first defeat of the season.


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