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Full-time: Blackburn Rovers 1 Doncaster 0
A RUDY Gestede header on the stroke of half-time secured Rovers an ultimately hard-fought win which moved them up to eighth and kept them within two points of the play-off places.
Gary Bowyer’s side dominated the opening period and, with better finishing, would have been further in front at the interval.
But relegation-threatened Doncaster fought back after the restart and they would have snatched a point at the death had it not been for the heroics of Paul Robinson.
Rovers, bubbling with confidence after their impressive performance and result against Manchester City in the FA Cup, started brightly and could and should have been ahead inside the first 15 minutes.
The first of three chances in quick succession fell to Tom Cairney after Gestede held the ball up well and popped it into the path of the onrushing midfielder, who dragged his 20-yard effort wide.
Cairney, who has made it his aim to add more goals to his game, had the perfect opportunity to make up for the miss moments later.
But after Ben Marshall – who was excellent in the first half – skipped past Luke McCullough and pulled the ball back into the danger area Cairney somehow skied over from eight yards with the goal at his mercy.
Cairney, running the game from his initial starting point on the right side of midfield, went about making amends.
He spread the ball out wide to Marshall whose cross from the left was flicked over by recalled top scorer Jordan Rhodes when it appeared that Gestede, lurking behind, was better placed to head home.
Rovers then had a penalty appeal turned down after Lee Williamson swapped passes with the influential Cairney and appeared to be pulled down just inside the box by Bongani Khumalo.
Donny, looking every inch a team on an eight-match winless run in all competitions, briefly threatened when Harry Forester skewed a shot wide from 20 yards.
But after Marshall cut inside and tested Ross Turnbull for the first time with a swerving, dipping drive from 30 yards, Rovers forged ahead in added time.
Rhodes chased down a ball over the top and stood it up to the back post for his strike-partner Gestede to power home his first goal for the club at Ewood Park.
Rhodes stung the hands of Turnbull at the start of the second half with a 20-yard snap-shot.
But it was Doncaster – transformed from the side that had traipsed down the tunnel at the break – who were doing most of the pressing.
Robinson was forced to tip over a James Coppinger cross-shot while man-of-the-match Grant Hanley, on more than one occasion, was required to make brave and timely blocks.
Rovers were coming under the cosh and boss Bowyer attempted to wrestle back some control by introducing the fit-again David Dunn for Gestede.
But the game remained finely balanced and the spirited visitors would have equalised in the four minutes of injury-time had it not been for the returning Robinson.
After a mix up between the former England number one and skipper Scott Dann led to a corner, Robinson redeemed himself with a superb point-blank range save from substitute Alex Peterson’s header.
Robinson, playing only his second game after 13 months on the sidelines, then made a more straightforward but nonetheless vital stop from Richie Wellens after the Rovers defence appealed in vain for an offside flag.
Rovers: Robinson, Henley, Dann, Hanley, Spurr, Cairney (Taylor 77), Lowe, Williamson, Marshall, Gestede (Dunn 72), Rhodes (Campbell 84). Subs not used: Eastwood, Kilgallon, Rochina, Morris.
Booked: Lowe, Henley.
Goal: Gestede 45.
Doncaster: Turnbull, Stevens, McCullough (Cotterill 79), Khumalo, Meite, De Val, Wellens, Husband (Peterson 68), Forrester (Duffy 68), Coppinger, Brown. Subs not used: Maxted, Furman, Wakefield, Bennett.
Booked: Wellens, Meite, Husband, Khumalo.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson.
Attendance: 13,954 (829 away).
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