The Rovers players slumped to their knees at the final whistle of a topsy-turvy game knowing they nicked three points they didn’t deserve against Barnsley.

Bradley Dack struck four minutes from time to hand Rovers a fourth home win of the campaign against the Championship’s bottom side.

Cauley Woodrow had only equalised four minutes before for a Barnsley side who dominated the second half and levelled for the first time two minutes in to the second half through substitute Connor Chaplin.

Dack’s first goal, in the 24th minute handed Rovers a half-time lead, while Stewart Downing came off the bench to restore lead with 20 minutes to play.

But it needed an eighth of the season from Dack to secure points as Rovers returned from the international break with a win.

The performance will raise questions, not least of the defensive shape, with Barnsley dominant in the second half and looking the most likely to take the points before Dack’s late winner.

Rovers were boosted by the return of Darragh Lenihan after seven weeks, with Amari’i Bell and Joe Rothwell earning recalls.

Rothwell went on a trademark mazy run inside the opening five minutes before Lewis Holtby appeared to have his legs taken from underneath him, but no penalty was forthcoming.

Adam Armstrong, operating as the central striker, was flagged offside three times in what was a frustrating 20 minutes for Rovers who struggled for fluency.

With Armstrong up front, Sam Gallagher chasing back to his own corner flag was seen a little too often for Rovers’ liking.

The first shot on target came from Barnsley’s top scorer Cauley Woodrow who was picking up some promising positions at the tip of a midfield diamond. However, his 18th minute shot was too close to Christian Walton who was able to hang on.

Woodrow had an even more inviting shooting opportunity moments later as Barnsley worked the ball neatly around the Rovers box, with the attacker’s left foot strike forcing Walton to palm away.

A Barnsley mistake offered Rovers a gift of an opportunity to take the lead in the 24th minute, however, one they didn’t turn down. Mads Anderson’s pass was cut out by Lewis Travis who fed Armstrong and he had the presence of mind to square for Dack to tap in to an empty net for his seventh of the season.

The space was out wide for Rovers and just after the half hour mark they worked a shooting angle for Gallagher, but from Dack’s lay-off he dragged an effort well wide.

The forward would have had a certain tap in had he gambled at the back when Dack fizzed a ball across the six-yard box.

While Rovers went in to the break ahead, they didn’t do so with any level of authority.

Barnsley, under new boss Gerhard Struber, made a double switch which paid off immediately. The visitors, with just four away goals prior to the trip to Ewood Park, levelled two minutes after the re-start.

And it was Connor Chaplin, fresh off the bench, who found it. Rovers were outnumbered at the back, allowing Brown to feed Chaplin who thumped an effort home on his left foot.

Woodrow had sounded a warning only moments before, dragging a left foot shot wide, while Brown diverted a Toby Sibbick cross in to the side-netting as the visitors grew in confidence.

Rovers’ first chance of the half came from a mistake, one which Rothwell almost punished. Goalkeeper Sami Rudlinger’s poor kick landed at the feet of Rothwell who had a go from all of 40 yards. The keeper scrambled back to get hand to the shot, and was quick to his feet to get to the loose ball before Armstrong.

Rovers responded with a double substitution of their own, turning to the experience of Danny Graham and Stewart Downing.

But that wasn’t before Barnsley had threatened again, Alex Mowatt drawing a save out of Walton with his shot from 25 yards,

The Barnsley effort would have his hands on his head in the 64th minute when his curling effort beat Walton, but also the far post, but not by much, as Barnsley continued to look the dominant force.

Too many players were sauntering around from a Rovers perspective as Barnsley popped it around them with ease.

The hosts needed something to lift them from their malaise and it came with 21 minutes to play as Travis broke forward. The move ended with Rothwell’s shot deflecting in to the path of Downing who thumped home an effort on his right foot.

Against the run of play didn’t quite do it justice, but Rovers had found themselves ahead again.

The two subs combined to create a chance that may well have put the game to bed. Downing fed Graham who unselfishly tried to square for Armstrong, rather than go himself, but defender George Williams did well to get back and clear.

Chaplin had added a spark for the visitors and would threaten again with 12 minutes to play. He twisted inside and out up against Bennett, with Walton keeping out his near-post effort.

A crazy game still had more drama to give as the visitors would level for a second time with eight minutes to play. Walton spilled what appeared to be a routine cross from Brown, with Chaplin holding off four markers to cross for Woodrow to steer home from close range.

The attacker than had two chances in a matter of minutes that could have swung the game in Barnsley’s favour. First he miss-kicked at the far post when Mowatt’s shot deflected in to his path, while he caught an 85th minute strike much better that forced Walton to backpeddle and tip over his bar.

Frustration was turning to anger in the home stands with Rovers continuing to be pressed back. But with four minutes to go, man of the moment Dack came up with what would prove to be the winner.

Lenihan headed a Downing free kick in to his path, and though Radlinger kept out his first header, Dack was able to force the rebound over the line.

Four nervy minutes of normal time were followed by four more anxious ones in stoppage time. The closest Barnsley came was when a poor clearance from Bell landed at the feet of Kenny Dougall whose shot deflected just wide.

Rovers hung, with the final whistle bringing huge sighs of relief around Ewood Park.


Rovers: Walton, Bennett, Lenihan, Adarabioyo, Bell, Travis, Holtby (Downing, 62), Rothwell (Buckley, 79) Dack, Armstrong, Gallagher (Graham, 62)

Subs: Leutwiler, Johnson, Evans, Brereton

Barnsley: Radlinger, Halme (Dougall, 46), Diaby, Andersen, Sibbick, Williams, Mowatt, Brown, Schmidt (Chaplin, 46), Woodrow, Bahre (Thomas, 82)

Subs: Collins, McGeehan, Cavare, Thiam