ROVERS will have a mathematical chance of snatching a play-off place if they win their final home game of the season at home to top-six rivals Wigan Athletic next Saturday after they made it back-to-back victories with a comfortable success at relegation-threatened Charlton.
Red-hot Rudy Gestede’s seventh goal in his last seven starts set Gary Bowyer’s side on their way to a win which moved them up to eighth and within three points of sixth-placed Wigan.
But Charlton would have been level before an even first half was out had Paul Robinson not saved Marvin Sordell’s penalty. Having survived that scare Rovers dominated the second half and on-loan Manchester United defender Michael Keane’s third goal for the club and a fifth goal of the campaign for Tom Cairney settled the contest.
Rovers, with fit-again duo Keane and Cairney in for Todd Kane and the injured Jason Lowe, were denied what looked a stonewall penalty in the 23rd minute when Gestede flicked the ball over the Addicks backline to strike-partner Rhodes.
The brave forward got to the ball first, with his headed effort trickling past the post, before he was cleaned out by goalkeeper Ben Hamer.
But three minutes later Rovers went in front as a tremendous tackle from captain Grant Hanley led to Josh King crossing to the back post where Gestede directed a powerful downward header into the corner of the net.
Hamer should have done better. But that did not bother Gestede, who now has 11 goals for the season, eight of which have come with his head. King should have doubled the advantage in the 34th minute after the influential Cairney won the ball and played him in.
But the winger could only drag his angled shot past the far post. It could well have proved a costly miss had Sordell been able to convert the 40th-minute penalty he had won after he was tripped in the box by Hanley, whose centre-back partner Matt Kilgallon had given the ball away in the build up to the incident.
But Robinson, for the second season running at The Valley, kept out a spot-kick. Rovers went close through Craig Conway and Keane before the opening period was out.
And the same two players combined to extend the lead in the 51st minute when Conway sent over another of his wonderfully inviting free kicks for right-back Keane to head the ball back across Hamer and into the net.
It was the ninth goal the outstanding Conway has made in 17 matches for Rovers, to add to the four goals he has scored. But Charlton reduced the deficit three minutes later when Sordell curled home from the edge of the box. However Rovers restored their two-goal advantage 10 minutes later.
Cairney and King combined to set-up Rhodes, whose side-footed attempt was blocked on the line but only as far as Cairney, who kept his cool to turn in the rebound. While Robinson saved from Morgan Fox and saw a Johnnie Jackson free kick drift just over his crossbar, it was Rovers, who now have netted 19 goals in their last six away games, who could and should have scored more.
Gestede thumped a header against the angle of bar and post from a Conway corner and also headed straight at Hamer following a cross from substitute Liam Feeney, who also blazed wide when he should have at least hit the target.
Before the match members of Rovers’ community department handed out scarfs to the travelling fans as they made their way into the ground, emblazoned with a thank you message from boss Bowyer and his players to mark the support they have shown away from home this season.
Charlton: Hamer, Solly, Dervite, Morrison, Fox, Poyet, Jackson (Petrucci 82), Cousins, Ajdarevic (Church 70), Harriott (Ghoochannejhad 57), Sordell. Subs not used: Thuram-Ulien, Wood, Obika, Wilson. Booked: Fox. Goal: Sordell 54.
Rovers: Robinson, Keane, Hanley, Kilgallon, Olsson, King (Feeney 74), Cairney, Evans, Conway (Taylor 90), Gestede, Rhodes (Williamson 85). Subs not used: Eastwood, Kane, Varney, Rittenberg. Goals: Gestede 26, Keane 51, Cairney 64. Referee: Michael Naylor. Attendance: 15,718 (940 away).