RELEGATE Doncaster claimed a morale-boosting victory in their final away game of the season as they made sure Coventry followed them down to League One.
Second-half goals from James Hayter and Simon Gillett were enough to seal the points on their travels in a game in which hinged on a match-changing turning incident when Richard Keogh conceded a late penalty and was given his marching orders 10 minutes from time.
Striker Hayter picked himself up to bury the resulting spot-kick and five minutes later Gillett unleashed an unstoppable drive from just outside the penalty area to make it a happy return journey back to Yorkshire for the visiting contingent.
Rovers made a confident start and enjoyed some decent possession in the opening five minutes. The impressive James Coppinger almost set up the opening goal when he laid the ball back to James O’Connor who fired wide.
Midway through the first-half, Rovers had another decent chance when a long ball up field from George Friend found Coppinger in the middle of the park. His clever knock-back found Gillett who burst forward at the Coventry defence before firing a low-powerful shot that had Joe Murphy briefly troubled.
The home side began to get themselves into the match and almost went ahead against the run of play when Keogh headed narrowly wide from an Oliver Norwood corner before Gary McSheffrey’s surging run resulted in an attempt being blocked by Adam Lockwood.
Coventry’s pressure was beginning to pay dividends as they began to push the Doncaster defenders further and further back towards their goal.
The hosts almost got their reward on the half-hour mark when Clive Platt’s close-range header was hacked clear away from the goal-line by George Friend.
Rovers boss Dean Saunders was forced into an early change when Chris Brown limped off injured and was replaced by Hayter.
The second half started with the vigour and high-tempo that the first-half lacked and an early Coppinger cross was headed towards goal by Hayter but his effort was easily dealt with by Murphy.
Straight down at the other end, Chris Hussey went bursting down the wing but his effort from the left-hand side of the penalty area flew harmlessly wide.
With eight minutes of the second-half gone James Husband, who was making his full debut for the club, was a nuisance down the left-hand side, but his perfectly-weighted cross was hacked to safety just in time as Coppinger closed in on goal.
On the hour mark the Sky Blues won a succession of corners, followed moments later by a Norwood free-kick from 30-yards that flew well over the crossbar.
Moments later Cody McDonald did well to fashion some space inside the Rovers penalty area and his clever effort beat Gary Woods in the Doncaster goal but came back off the foot of the post.
On 77 minutes, the best move of the match saw Hussey and McDonald combine allowing McSheffrey to fire over the crossbar on the volley from five-yards out with the goal at his mercy.
But the decisive moment of the game came with ten minutes remaining when Keogh brought down Hayter with referee Chris Foy pointing to the spot and sending the Coventry captain off. Hayter duly obliged from the resulting kick to give his side a lead.
The goal appeared to knock the stuffing out of the hosts and on 87 minutes, Gillett found himself space on the edge of the area and after a succession of clever passing from the visitors, fired the ball left-footed into the corner of the net and beyond the reach of Murphy.
Saunders reflected: ‘’I thought it was an excellent performance, we missed our usual number of chances but we got the penalty at the perfect time and I don’t think we ever looked back after that.
“We started the game well, we had a decent spell of possession and I think on another day we might have had a couple of goals early on but we’ve missed our usual half a dozen chances and we haven’t been able to take advantage.
“We got the penalty at the right time, I thought immediately that it was a penalty and to be honest I didn’t see much argument from the Coventry players, it looked pretty nailed on.
“I approached this game like it was a cup final, I will do the same with the game at home to Ipswich next weekend. That’s the way I like to come into these games.
“To take seven points from our final three games would be amazing and it would say a lot about the lads character that despite being relegated we can end the season well.”
Sky Blues boss Andy Thorn was left devastated as his side slumped to victory. He admitted: “I am bitterly disappointed. I feel for the players because it has been really tough. We have stuck in there and kept having a go.
“I am gutted because we put a hell of a lot of effort in and, regardless of not having players, we have had chances towards the back end of the season to climb out of it.”