Goals from Will Keane and Max Power saw Rovers suffer a 2-1 defeat to Wigan Athletic at the Eco-Power Stadium.
Power gave the Latics an early lead when he headed in from a corner inside ten minutes while Keane doubled the advantage just after the break. Substitute Omar Bogle gave Rovers hope when he capitalised with his first touch after being introduced on the hour-mark.
There was plenty of heart and fight from Gary McSheffrey’s young side but experience told for a visiting Wigan side vying for promotion.
Promotion chasing Wigan flew out of the traps and Will Keane was inches from providing his side with the lead inside five minutes. Gavin Massey was next to go close when things opened up for him to unleash an effort from distance before Tom Pearce went close.
It was striker Power who would register the first goal on ten minutes, with a glancing header at the near post from James McClean’s corner-kick delivery.
Rovers rarely had a sight of goal, but some good counter-attacking play put Aidan Barlow through into the box, but the ball wouldn’t sit for the Rovers No.16 and he couldn’t get a shot away while Ethan Galbraith’s drilled shot from 22-yards was more in hope than expectation.
New signing Kieran Agard was providing an option running in behind the defence and keeping wide, but passes out to him were overhit giving him little chance to do anything with them.
Rovers forced their first chance on the half-hour mark. Matt Smith won the ball back and found the run of Aidan Barlow who took a touch and forced a save from keeper Ben Amos what followed was a better spell for Rovers.
More direct and determined running took him away from the challenges of two defenders and – though he appeared to be brought down outside the box – referee Alan Young was unmoved. The ball was won back quickly through the combined efforts of Smith and Ethan Galbraith and Joe Dodoo was able to pick out the deep run from Tommy Rowe with a cut back. The skipper struck it well, but it was blocked by Wigan.
Rovers continued to get the ball into better areas as the half progressed but Smith’s sliced effort from the edge of the box was Rovers last opportunity of the half for either side.
The visitors once again started the better side with Keane gifted a number of chances before turning the ball on the 53rd minute. His first chance came as he got across his marker and guided the ball on target but it was comfortable for Louis Jones in the Rovers’ net.
His second was a fiercely struck effort from six-yards which was bravely blocked by Joseph Olowu, but his third was virtually unmissable as he met a ball at the back post and headed in.
Barlow continued to be one of Rovers brightest sparks for Rovers and his final act before being substituted on the hour mark was to win a free kick in a good position.
The change was made with Barlow withdrawn and Bogle introduced and the striker made the most immediate of immediate impacts – perhaps spurred on by the chorus of boos from the Latics fans – as he turned the ball in from the free-kick with his first touch of the afternoon.
Galbraith then forced a save with his effort from distance while at the other end another chance fell to Keane but was saved well by Jones.
The game petered out after the 75 minutes with a number of lengthy stoppages due to a towel-taking incident, taking a lot of the sting out of the game. Power’s deflected effort on the 86th which trickled just wide of Jones’ post which was the best of the final chances.
Six minutes were added at the end of the match to make up for a very stop-start second period but Rovers were unable to find a second.