TWO years ago tomorrow Rovers effectively secured their Championship survival with a vital victory over Millwall.

But last night they left the Lions staring at relegation to League One in the face with a late success inspired by prolific strike-partners Rudy Gestede and Jordan Rhodes.


Gestede opened the scoring in the 78th minute with his 20th goal of the season.

But Rhodes is now just one goal behind him on 19 after he stepped off the bench to seal Rovers’ first home victory in five matches.

And it was a victory that extended their unbeaten league run to five games and one that effectively means they will finish ninth if they win one of their two final games of the campaign.

Millwall, in contrast, remain four points from safety and look doomed.

On a glorious evening in East Lancashire the teams emerged to swathes of empty seats around Ewood Park.

And those supporters who did show up were given little encouragement in a desperately tame opening-period performance from much-changed Rovers.

Not that their opponents were much better.

The Lions had a couple of early sighters, Martyn Woolford dragging wide before Alan Dunne cut in from the left and bent the ball past the post.

Rovers’ best bet for a goal before the break was full debutant Paul Taylor.

He created space for himself on the edge of the box and sent a shot straight down David Forde’s throat.

The on-loan winger’s second effort was better, a powerful left-footed drive that forced Forde to fly to his right and palm the ball away in spectacular fashion.

Before then chances came and went for Millwall, Ricardo Fuller seeing a close-range shot blocked after Ben Marshall’s half-hearted attempts to shepherd the ball behind, while Magaye Gueye volleyed over.

But the Lions’ best opportunity came on the stroke of half-time when Nadjim Abdou flicked a Gueye cross wide.

By that stage Rovers’ injury-ravaged defence had lost its leader, captain Matt Kilgallon, to a thigh injury.

He limped down the tunnel to be replaced by debutant Darragh Lenihan, who may have featured for the club’s U21s team in their Premier League Cup final decider with Southampton on Monday night had he not been needed for first-team duty.

Eric Kinder’s starlets, who went down fighting to the older and more experienced Saints, were given the warm reception their efforts richly deserved when they were presented on the pitch at half-time.

The spirit shown by the young Rovers at St Mary’s Stadium was sorely lacking in Gary Bowyer’s senior side in the first half here.

And matters did not improve immediately after the restart either, Tommy Spurr clearing off the line from Woolford after Marshall failed to head clear.

But Rovers eventually improved and they went close to breaking the deadlock when Marshall stood the ball up for Chris Brown, whose glancing header hit the bar.

Taylor then tried an imaginative flick from a Craig Conway corner that Forde gathered.

But there was nothing comfortable about the save that Jason Steele made to keep Millwall at bay in the 68th minute.

With Marshall ball-watching, Paris Cowan-Hall nipped in and he would have scored had it not been for the recalled goalkeeper’s superb reactions.

Rovers boss Bowyer responded by bringing on Rhodes and Tom Cairney for Brown and Taylor, who could be pleased with his efforts.

And the changes did the trick as, with 12 minutes of normal time remaining, his team went in front.

The ever-willing Conway, once more, was the provider, swinging over a cross from the left that flicked a Lions head on its way to the back post where Gestede volleyed home emphatically.

It was his fourth goal in two games after his hat-trick in Saturday’s 3-3 home draw with Nottingham Forest.

One should soon have become two, Cairney seeing one goal-bound shot heroically blocked before he dragged another wide.

And those misses would have proved costly had Aiden O’Brien not fired straight at Steele.

Relieved by the let-off, Rovers settled the contest in injury-time as Gestede, who moments earlier had gone close to his second, played in Rhodes, who slotted past the advanced Forde.