TONY Mowbray cut something of a disconsolate figure as he made away to the dugout from the tunnel at the final whistle.

But his route was applauded by every single Rovers fan who weren’t underestimating the valiant efforts of their head coach in trying to keep them in the Championship.

His 72 days and 15 games brought with them 22 points, but sadly not enough to preserve their second tier status.

There was something of an eerie quiet in the closing stages at Griffin Park. Rovers had done their job, kept their half of the bargain, with a terrific away win at Brentford.

It was events at Ashton Gate which sealed their fate, but at the final whistle, the travelling fans made it clear who they thought were behind the club’s fall in to the third tier.

The hope now is that the head coach, who breathed life back in to a club which was simply treading water at the beginning of the calendar year, will be given the assurances he needs to launch a fightback and try and arrest the club’s alarming decline.

As things stood at half-time, Rovers were down on goals scored. But they could have done little more in an opening 45 minutes in which they dominated.

Tony Mowbray had spoken in the build-up about the calmness Charlie Mulgrew brings to this Rovers side when the ball lands at his left-foot. One of the first things Mowbray did after coming in was to put the Scotland international on set-plays, and he rewarded him with an outstanding opening goal in the 10th minute.

He curled the ball up and over the wall and out of the reach of the despairing Daniel Bentley.

While the first was something of beauty, there was a slice of fortune about the way in which Danny Guthrie doubled Rovers’ advantage, and scored his first goal for the club in his 44th appearance.

It came six minutes after Mulgrew’s opener, as he fired a deflected effort beyond Bentley as the ball fell to him on the edge of the box after good work down the right by Sam Gallagher.

Moments after the half hour, they had a great chance for 3-0, with Sam Gallagher turning over an Elliott Bennett, colliding with the post for his troubles.

Derrick Williams was also wasteful with an effort just before the break, firing over from a tight angle after being teed up by Danny Graham.

Spanish attacker Jota had 12 goals in 2017 for Brentford, and was undoubtedly their main threat, with caution among the Rovers players every time he picked up the ball.

But it was Lasse Vibe who could go closest to cutting Rovers’ deficit, only to be denied by a stunning David Raya save. The Spaniard was quickly down to his left to palm away Vibe’s effort after a goalmouth scramble fell to him.

Brentford started the second half the stronger, with Sergi Canos going close to a goal four minutes after the re-start, only to curl an effort just wide of the far post.

The Bees were rewarded for their pressure however, as 11 minutes in to the second half, they got a goal back through Lasse Vibe. Rovers had failed to clear their lines, and that allowed Harlee Dean to cross and Lasse Vibe turn in from close range.

Within minutes though, Rovers squandered a great chance to restore their two-goal advantage, but Danny Graham could only fire over the bar on his left foot after good closing down from Craig Conway.

From then on, Rovers made all of their changes, sending on Marvin Emnes and Lucas Joao, but in truth, it was always more likely to be a Bristol City goal that would save them, rather than anything they could effect on the pitch.

As the game opened up, David Raya made some excellent saves from Vibe, Canos, and Jota, but it was Rovers who went on the attack late on.

Craig Conway was denied what appeared to be a stonewall penalty with 11 minutes to play, but Rovers would eventually get a spot-kick with eight minutes to spare.

Joao fed Emnes, who has flattened by Harlee Dean, who was subsequently sent off, before Conway hammered the spot-kick down the middle.

The goal was greeted by a cheer, but not quite at the level that a Bristol City equaliser, which would have kept them up, would have been.

In the end that wasn’t forthcoming, and for the first time in 37 years, Rovers will be playing third tier football next season – not what the 1,600 travelling fans, or those watching on from East Lancashire deserve.