Rovers bowed out of the Carabao Cup at the hands of Blackburn Rovers despite a battling second half performance.
The visitors struggled to impose themselves on the first half and it had felt like a Blackburn goal was coming when Lewis Holtby converted directly from a free-kick. Rovers were much brighter in the second half and Fejiri Okenabirhie’s converted penalty saw the tie swing in the visitor’s favour.
Madger Gomes got Rovers second from outside the box to put his side ahead, but Blackburn equalised just seven minutes later when Joe Rankin-Costello smashed home from close range after a scramble in the box.
Blackburn retook the lead with ten minutes to go when Adam Armstrong converted from the spot after Brad Halliday conceded a penalty.
Rovers registered the first chance of the game with Jason Lokilo given chance to stretch his legs just two minutes into the match. He struck the effort well enough, but it was a straightforward stop for Andy Fisher in the Blackburn goal.
The home side were in the ascendancy for the opening stages, but despite Blackburn boasting the lion’s share of possession, Rovers limited them to only a few shots. Harry Chapman’s effort took a deflection from Joe Wright and was gathered by Josef Bursik and Ben Brereton and Adam Armstong both had strikes whistle over the crossbar.
Niggling fouls around the edge of the box meant Blackburn Rovers were earning plenty of chances from free-kicks and Holtby capitalised on that on the half-hour mark with his curled the effort into the top corner.
Holtby could have doubled the lead shortly after when he was teed up for a golden opportunity but scuffed the shot wide.
Some good play from Madger Gomes set Jon Taylor free on the right but his cross was cut out by the keeper. A well-timed run from Fejiri Okenabirhie gave him chance to break away. He was isolated up front and did well to win his side a corner.
The corner was only cleared out for a throw in and Rovers kept the pressure on before Gomes saw his shot blocked. Rovers best half of the chance probably fell in the final minutes – Brad Halliday had a rare opportunity to roam forward and delivered a delicious cross which flew across the face of goal. Lokilo met it at the far post but was only able to steer it wide.
Rovers started the second half much more brightly. Jon Taylor had his first chance to really stretch his legs before finding Halliday who sent another excellent cross into the box. The home struggled to clear their lines as Cameron John and Taylor Richards both had shots blocked and three successive corners for Rovers increased the pressure on the home side.
The Rovers midfield three started with real intensity and as they started to win the battle in the middle of the pitch – Taylor Richards started to pin excellent forward balls in to the front three.
Okenabirhie made the pressure count when he bullied his way past Darragh Lenihan only for the Blackburn captain to bring him down in the box. The referee Anthony Backhouse thought for a moment before pointing to the spot.
Okenabirhie waited for the goalkeeper to commit and rolled the ball home to level the score.
In the next 10 minutes, the best chances for both sides fell to centre backs from corners. Joe Wright headed just over the bar for Rovers and Lenihan headed over for Blackburn.
Gomes put Rovers ahead when a clearance fell to him just outside the box. His low drive skipped over the surface and wriggled under Fisher to put Rovers ahead.
Rovers continued to control the second 45 but were unable to keep the Championship side out when the ball ricocheted around the box. Rovers appeared to have to kept the home side at bay with not one but two clearances off the line but Rankin-Costello unleashed at close range there was nothing any of the visitors could do to stop it.
With the score level, the match seemed to level out too and Bursik was called into action to prevent Brereton from regaining the lead for Blackburn.
Blackburn took the lead after Halliday brought Amari’i Bell down in the Rovers box. Armstrong converted with a well-taken penalty.
Brereton should have put the game to bed just minutes later. Josef Bursik had come off his line to prevent the initial strike but a squared ball to the hosts no.20 left him with the whole goal to aim at, but he lashed his effort wide.