Goals from James Coppinger and Cameron John helped Rovers to a dramatic win over Fleetwood Town for their first three points of the Sky Bet League One season.
Darren Moore made four changes from his side who fell to defeat in the Carabao Cup earlier in the week with Ian Lawlor, Ben Sheaf, Alfie May, and Coppinger all returning to the starting XI.
Fleetwood Town made just one change from their last league win against AFC Wimbledon – Harrison Biggins made way for Jack Sowerby.
The visitors made the better start and took an early lead with Conor McAleny heading home after Lawlor saved Jordan Rossiter’s initial header. McAleny almost doubled his goal tally soon after when he intercepted Lawlor’s stray pass, but his first touch took the ball wide and Rovers recovered well to defend the danger.
Rovers’ first chance of the match came minutes later when Ben Whiteman – urged on by the fans - fired a left-footed shot wide from the edge of the area. May then came close to equalising with a fantastic shot on the turn requiring a full-length save from Fleetwood keeper Alex Cairns who conceded a corner.
The corner kick was cleared but only as far as Whiteman who found Coppinger with his interception who in turn laid it off to Sheaf. The Arsenal loanee's cross fell to John who smashed an equaliser into the roof of the net.
Rovers came close to doubling their lead when Sheaf’s first-time strike from a Kieran Sadlier cross found the underside of the crossbar, but the referee spotted a foul in the build-up eliminating the need to argue about whether the ball had crossed the line.
The goal revitalised Rovers and they started to earn more and more possession and keep penned in Fleetwood’s half without creating any chances of real note. The best of these came from a free kick awarded when May was taken out off the ball.
Coppinger bent the ball behind the defence but Tom Anderson’s diving header was wide of the target.
Rovers did make the most of their pressure a few minutes later when Coppinger curled a sublime effort just inside the far post following the breakdown from a corner to put Rovers ahead.
Fleetwood could well have equalised right on half-time when Wes Burns pounced on a misplaced pass from Rovers’ defence. His first touch took the ball over Anderson’s head but with both John and Lawlor closing him down the Cod Army’s no.7 scooped the ball over the bar.
Fleetwood opted to make a change at half-time with Rossiter making way for Paddy Madden.
Rovers fired first - Coppinger’s neat ball over the top found the path of Sadlier whose quick feet saw him brush fast former-Rovers left-back Danny Andrew and unleash a shot which required a smart save from Cairns.
However, it was Fleetwood who would get the first goal of the second half and it would be the substitute who scored it. Lawlor made a superb save to stop Madden's first headed effort from close range, but the ball popped up kindly for the Fleetwood man to take a second stab at it and he headed into an empty net.
Rovers won a free kick on the hour mark as May was bundled over by Burns. The resulting free kick fell to May in the penalty area but when the striker went down, the official booked Rovers’ no.19 for diving.
Rovers went close again with yet another Coppinger cross causing some panic in the Fleetwood defence. Peter Clarke’s diving header to put the ball out for a corner was closer to the goal than he would have wanted. The corner was headed clear to Ben Whiteman who curled an effort goalward but it was a comfortable height for the keeper.
What came next was chaos in the Rovers penalty box that left the whole stadium wondering how Fleetwood hadn’t taken the lead. Harry Souttar headed the ball across Lawlor’s goal line it took a flick from Morris which saw it collide with the inside of the post before the keeper clawed it away. The Irishman somehow recovered enough to get in the way of the follow-up effort from close range.
A big chance went begging for Rovers when substitute Kazaiah Sterling turned his man and tried to sprint away - the ball was tackled away from him but into the path of Sadlier. The no.7 tried to place the ball just inside the post but had to watch it roll agonisingly wide.
Rovers did find a breakthrough in added time when Coppinger did what he'd been doing all match and curled another wicked free kick into the Fleetwood box - this time it took a touch and was turned in at the back post by Fleetwood’s Burns to give Rovers their first win of the season.