More minutes for key players and a return from injury for Tom Anderson as a depleted Rovers fell to a 2-0 defeat on a red-hot afternoon at the Utilita Energy Stadium.
Richie Wellens was left without a number of senior players for the second pre-season friendly of the 2021/22 campaign after a positive COVID-19 case within the squad meant a number of the players were forced to self-isolate.
There was some positive news, however, with captain Tom Anderson back in the starting line-up after recovering enough from the knock which kept him out against Rossington Main a week earlier.
Rovers started the game quickly winning an early corner which was headed narrowly wide by a trialist, but Bradford City came alive after that with Abo Eisa causing Rovers’ right-hand side all sorts of problem.
The pressure told within ten minutes when Trialist Two clipped the winger as he burst into the box with referee Tom Brammal forced to point to the spot. Eisa fired the ball into the top corner leaving Louis Jones with no chance.
Eisa continued to cause problems with his pace but Jones was quick off his line to smother the danger. As the home side got into their stride, the goalkeeper began to have a bigger say on the game pulling off a superb stop to deny Ollie Crankshaw from close range and getting in the way to deny Andy Cook who scuffed his effort at Jones’ back post.
A drinks-break at the first-half midpoint (to combat the blistering July weather) gave Rovers the chance to regroup and for Wellens to impart some tweaks to the play. The boys in their new blue away kit did see more of the ball but they struggled to make it county with some understandable difficulties caused by players who haven’t played together before.
Wellens side carved out a few half-chances late on. A Tommy Rowe cross - which was begging to be poked home on the line - went all the way through to goalkeeper Sam Hornby at the back post while some good work by a trialist to find some space in the Bantam’s box was let down by a final ball which evaded everyone in blue.
Rovers made a number of changes at the half with only Jones (who was named captain) and a handful of trialists re-appearing for the second 45. Branden Horton and AJ Greaves were also named among the XI.
Bradford took advantage of the mass changes for Rovers and had doubled their lead within ten minutes of the restart. Some quick passing by the Bantams front line opened up the newly assembled Rovers defence and Andy Cook was able to finish neatly from close range.
Another drinks break, as the weather failed to dip below 28 degrees gave the home side the chance to make six changes and for Rovers to swap off three trialists with Liam Ravenhill, Lirak Hasani and another trialist entering the field. Soon after Rovers registered their first shot off the second half with a trialist’s floated effort drifting over Sam Hornby’s crossbar.
More substitutions including the introduction of Ben Bottomley made for a stop-start second half and neither team were able to pick up much momentum or create any chances. The match petered out with Lee Angol having the only moments of note, forcing a save from Rovers’ 18-year-old shot-stopper at his near post and then a second from a long-range free kick.