Rovers suffered their first loss of 2017/18 pre-season despite Liam Mandeville continuing his red-hot goalscoring form against Sheffield Wednesday.
Mandeville’s sixth strike of this summer’s friendlies, equalising Sam Winnall’s headed effort, was not enough as Gary Hooper lobbed an effort over Marko Marosi
Rovers were looking to build on what had so far been an unbeaten pre-season ahead of their return to Sky Bet League One.
The visiting Owls made the brighter start, with Fernando Forestieri immediately causing problems down the Rovers’ right hand side. The Italian had the game's first opportunity, but his effort was comfortable for Marosi in the Rovers goal.
Wednesday were in the ascendancy during the early stages, with Steven Fletcher attempting an ambitious lob over Marosi from 35 yards out, before scrappy work down the left-hand side once again from Forestieri saw the visitors close to taking the lead.
Forestieri got in behind the Rovers’ back line, with his cross parried by Marosi straight in to the path of the advancing Sam Winnall, but the former Barnsley man’s shouldered attempt struck the bar before being cleared by Andy Butler off the line.
Rovers then got a hold on the game, getting forward themselves. John Marquis went close first, scuffing a back heel wide from a Mandeville cross as the game started to open up.
Winnall and Forestieri had great chances to open the scoring as they both managed to find themselves some space again down the Rovers’ right, but Craig Alcock and Butler were both able to deny the Owls’ efforts.
Ben Whiteman had the next effort at breaking the deadlock when neat work between him and James Coppinger saw an opportunity open up for the man on loan from Sheffield
United, but his strike from 25 yards was blocked to earn Rovers a corner.
Despite this added pressure from Rovers, it was instead the visitors who took the lead. Ross Wallace found space to cross in from the right and the Scot’s ball in was glanced home by Winnall.
Rovers quickly regained momentum going forward, with Danny Andrew causing problems for the Wednesday defence. The full-back linked well with Tommy Rowe, earning the home side a corner, with Alcock having an effort blocked for another corner on the opposite side.
A flicked header from Rowe towards the near post saw the ball narrowly going over the Wednesday bar, but Rovers would not have to wait long to get back on terms with their local rivals.
Great work again down the left by Rowe saw him release the advancing Andrew, with the left back’s out-swinging cross was placed perfectly for Mandeville to head home and he was able to continue his great pre-season form so far.
The start to the second half saw Rovers take control, with the home side having long spells in possession of the ball, but despite constant pressure, Rovers were not able to breakthrough and take the lead in the game.
Wednesday began to get a foothold again in the game, with Marco Matias’ neat foot work gifting him some space in the box, but his shot was blocked by Alcock and went over for a corner.
The visitors did retake the lead once more though shortly afterwards, with Rovers caught out at the back following some good work by Owls’ sub Barry Bannan, the former Aston Villa man lifting a ball over the top for Gary Hooper.
Hooper controlled well, looping the ball over Marosi, leaving him with the simple job of tapping in on the line.
Rovers didn’t let this affect their own game though, and took the game to Wednesday as they looked to get back on level terms immediately.
Mandeville and Whiteman both earned free kicks around the edge of the penalty area in quick succession, as the Wednesday defence seemed unable to cope with some of the counter-attacking football that Rovers were trying to play.
Marquis had Rovers’ best chance after the Owls’ goal, his header from yet another Andrew cross though was easily claimed by Kieran Westwood, leaving Rovers ruing earlier missed opportunities.
As the game wore on though, it was the visitors who closed the game the stronger, with Bannan and George Boyd both being thwarted by Marosi, before Matias hit the post with just the keeper to beat.
Rovers were unable to maintain their unbeaten pre-season status so far, but some great spells of possession against a side who will be looking for promotion to the Premier League will give Rovers’ fans plenty of encouragement ahead of the season’s opener at home to Gillingham.