Rovers fell to a frustrating 2-1 defeat at the hands of Accrington Stanley.
Two Dion Charles penalties at the end of either half condemned Rovers to defeat at the Wham Stadium.
The hosts were the better side in the first half and were worthy of their half-time lead when Charles finished from the spot, Rovers did look better in the second 45 and Tyreece John-Jules’ goal after his introduction seemed to have been enough for Rovers to share the points. A rush of blood to the head from Ellery Balcombe in injury time meant Charles was given the chance to beat him from the spot for a second time and snatch all three points right at the death.
Andy Butler was forced into one change to the side that beat Shrewsbury Town on Saturday with Jason Lokilo replacing Josh Sims who missed out through illness. This freed up a space on the bench for Celtic loanee Scott Robertson.
The home side had the best of the opening exchanges. With Dion Charles’ effort from distance denied by a wonderful fingertip save by Ellery Balcombe at the expense of a corner which Accrington very nearly capitalised from. Charles was the man again, but it was Joe Wright who made the all-important clearance off the line. Sean McConville then did everything right, skipping through the middle of the park before firing his effort straight at the Rovers’ keeper.
It took 15 minutes for Rovers register a half-chance. Butler’s men broke with pace and Taylor Richards’ hit it with pace, but it was blocked for a corner. At the other end, Stanley continued to test Balcombe from range with Colby Bishop unleashing a fierce strike from distance and Adam Phillips skewing a volley wide.
Despite that, Rovers should arguably have taken the lead on the half-hour mark. Richards nicked the ball back high up the pitch, but had the ball nicked off him just as he was about to take the shot. It found its way back to him, but his pass to Okenabirhie was misplaced and needed superb intervention from Coppinger to cut the ball back to the no.9 at the by-line but the striker somehow fired over from close range.
The turning point of the first half came with less than five minutes of the 45 remaining. A rash challenge by Wright on McConville just inside the Rovers’ box meant referee Anthony Backhouse had no choice but to point to the spot. Charles finished from 12-yards to put his side ahead at the break.
Rovers started the second half brighter, but both the big early chances went the host’s way with Charles and then Phillips lashing the ball wide from close range. A couple of half-chances fell Rovers’ way just before the hour mark – Coppinger at the heart of both. The first a free kick which gave Coppinger chance to float a ball into the back post, but it evaded everyone. He made a great run to meet a ball over the top by Anderson which was cut back just behind the run of Richards.
Richards himself continued to be the bright spark for Rovers and rode numerous challenges to bully his way into a good area before sliding the ball into the path of Jason Lokilo. The Belgian hit the target, but his effort lacked the conviction it needed to trouble Toby Savin in the Stanley goal.
Accrington’s best chance in this period came when a ball ricocheted kindly off the referee – firing between Rovers’ centre backs into the path the Stanley striker who put it wide.
Tyreece John-Jules made a near immediate impact after coming on hour mark. He gave the Stanley defence a different problem and showed real strikers ability when he was played in. He showed tenacity and then a calmness as he finished just inside the far post.
John-Jules could well have won his side the game just minutes later but for a superb save by Savin. Robertson drove confidently through the middle of the park as Rovers hit them on the break – he picked out the Arsenal loanee who was denied by a brilliant stop.
It wasn’t meant to be for Rovers as in injury time, Balcombe brought down McConville in his own box gifting Charles a chance to get his brace from the spot and take the points.