Tommy Rowe’s second-half strike ensured Rovers’ unbeaten pre-season continued with a 1-1 draw against Championship side Derby County.
Darren Ferguson made six changes to the team that started Saturday’s 2-0 win away at Tadcaster, handing a first start to on-loan midfielder Ben Whiteman as well as giving a start to trialist Steven Taylor in defence.
Rovers made the brighter start, with Rowe and Alfie May both trying their luck from distance in the opening 10 minutes.
The visiting Rams that made the breakthrough, though. After good work down the right between Mason Bennett and David Nugent, County earned themselves a corner, and it was from this that Richard Keogh was able to open the scoring by powering home a Jacob Butterfield corner from 10 yards out.
It could have been two shortly afterwards, with Nugent bringing out Rovers’ keeper Ian Lawlor. The former England forward attempted to lob Lawlor, but Andreas Weimann was in an offside position and the Derby attack was brought to a halt.
Rovers got themselves back in to the game, May and Rowe again causing problems going forward, with new left back Danny Andrew also impressing down the left hand side on his home debut.
Despite this pressure from Rovers, it was Derby who next went close. Keeper Lawlor was almost caught out at the back, but Chris Martin could only strike the base of a post from 12 yards out.
Rovers closed out the half on top, applying more pressure on the Rams defence as the half time whistle neared, with some neat passing moves getting close to unlocking the County backline, but to no avail.
In similar fashion to the first half, it was Rovers who started the brighter of the two sides after the break, earning a corner in the first minute of the second period, but Andrew’s ball in was easily dealt with by the Rams’ defence.
Rovers then earned themselves a free-kick on the right hand side following a late challenge on James Coppinger, with Coppinger and Andrew working the set piece between them - Andrew’s cross in to the box narrowly missed the advancing Niall Mason at the back post.
The introduction of Coppinger at half time had certainly galvanised the home side, with the captain again causing problems down the Rovers’ right, linking well with Matty Blair, with a neat little one-two between the pair leading to Coppinger’s low drive earning them another corner - which was easily taken by Rams stopper Johnny Mitchell.
Rovers did finally get their reward though and it was well deserved. A ball from May was dummied by Coppinger, and emphatically fired home by Rowe from the edge of the six yard box, finally giving Rovers something to show for their efforts in the game.
A whole host of substitutions then followed for the home side, with Ferguson making six changes, bringing on Issam Ben Khemis for his second trial game, who with Alfie Beestin immediately caused the Rams even more problems, with no real signs of who was the team from the higher division.
Straight away Rovers were back on the attack, with the Ben Khemis sending a ball across the penalty area, but Tyler Garratt saw his well struck volley saved by Mitchell who was now coming heavily under fire.
Ben Khemis was now a thorn in the Rams’ side, constantly getting the better of both Craig Forsyth and the goal scorer and captain Keogh, but he wasn’t able to get enough space to create a clearer opening.
Against the run of play, it was the visitors who found themselves with a huge chance to get themselves back in front. Harry Middleton was caught in possession 25 yards out from goal, and Mason Bennett was able to worm his way in to the Rovers penalty area.
His charge on goal was abruptly halted by Andrew, and it gave the Rams’ number nine Martin the chance to put County back in front. The Scotland international however blazed well over the bar to ensure that the scores remained level heading in to the final 15 minutes.
Andreas Weimann went close three minutes later to redeeming his strike partner, finding himself in acres of space down the Derby left. His curling effort grazed the top of the crossbar however, leaving substitute goalkeeper Marko Marosi feeling relieved after he was left standing by the Austrian’s attempt on goal.
Coppinger and the in-form Liam Mandeville both went close with headers as the game edged towards the last 10 minutes, but Rovers were unable to find the winner that they probably did deserve, and despite a much improved second half performance from the hosts, the game ended in a draw.