Since sealing promotion little under a month ago, Rovers grip on the title had slipped putting them in second place heading in to the final day.
The packed away end remained slightly optimistic they could reclaim top spot, but only a win would do, and they hadn’t managed that in the previous four. Hartlepool meanwhile needed a win and nothing less to give themselves a chance of Football League survival.
A scrappy first half saw Rovers take the lead and top spot thanks to results elsewhere, Andy Williams slotting home from close range.
After the break, desperation heightened and Hartlepool went on the offensive, pestering Iain Lawlor’s goal, but Rovers seemingly had the luck of the Irish, with the stopper initially keeping ‘Pools at bay.
However, Lawlor was eventually beaten, twice, by Devante Rodney. Rovers’ defence have lapsed in concentration often this season and did so again; crucially slipping up at the final hurdle.
Yet home delight was short lived with Newport County’s win condemning Hartlepool to the drop regardless, and whilst Rovers’ fans could celebrate promotion, given the players’ reactions, you could’ve been forgiven for thinking both teams had suffered relegation.
The long summer starts now for Rovers and they must recruit well, defensively in particular, if they are to stand any chance of putting up a fight in League One.
The season may have ended on a low note, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact Rovers have returned to the third tier at the first attempt.