A goal from Oliver Burke, a brace for Lys Mousset and a late header for Luke Freeman saw Rovers suffer a 4-0 defeat against Sheffield United in their penultimate pre-season friendly.
The match took a while to get going with seventeen minutes on the clock before Jordy Hiwula registered the first shot on target – an effort that saved comfortably at the near posts. The visitors took the lead eight minutes later when an error at the back meant Burke was able to tap into an empty net, while Mousset showed good instincts to knock in a second from six yards after good work by Sande Berge.
Mousset got his second right on half-time when a through-ball put him one-on-one with Louis Jones and he was able to slot it away.
The second half became very stop start with both sides making a number of substitutes, but Freeman popped up with less than ten minutes to go to head a fourth from close range.
The game had barely got started before a coming together between Ollie Norwood and a Rovers trialist left the latter with a head injury meaning he was unable to continue. After several minutes of on-field treatment, he was taken from the field on a stretcher and was replaced by a second trialist.
The match started slowly with both sides passing the ball around and getting a feel for the game. The first two shots in anger was registered by two Rovers trialists with the first on target effort registered just before the 20 minute mark when Jordy Hiwula cut in from the left but he failed to get the power needed to trouble Aaron Ramsdale at his near post.
At the other end, Tom Anderson seemed to be everywhere, cutting out danger before it started.
For all of Rovers early play, it was the visitors who took the lead with their first chance of the game. An under-hit pass by Louis Jones across the face of his goal was pounced on Oliver Burke and the visiting winger was able to slot into an empty net just before the half-hour mark.
The goal seemed to dent Rovers’ confidence and ten minutes later the visitors had doubled their lead. Sander Berge was able to get beyond the Rovers defence with ease and drive to the near post - his cut back was met at the back post by Ben Osborn. That shot was blocked, but the ball fell kindly to Mousset who made no mistakes from six yards.
The Blades extended their lead right on half time. A through ball put Mousset beyond the Rovers defence as he beat the offside call by the merest of margins. He was able to coolly slot right-footed past Jones.
There were three changes for both sides at half-time. For Rovers, Omar Bogle, Jordy Hiwula and a trialist were replaced by another trialist, Aidan Barlow and Tiago Cukur while Chris Basham, Rhian Brewster and keeper Wes Foderingham came on in place of Berge, Mousset, and Ramsdale.
The second half started much more slowly. A poor punch from substitute keeper Foderingham provided a bit of a half-chance for Rovers early on while a couple of blocked efforts one after the other were the best the visitors could manage in fifteen minutes before a cross from the right was collected by Jones as he snuffed out the danger.
With 25 minutes remaining, Rovers strung together their best move of the afternoon with a trialist, Cukur, Ed Williams – who had come off the bench - and Tommy Rowe linking up to put together a good move on the break. The final ball didn’t quite reach Rowe and the follow up was whipped into Foderingham’s arms by Matt Smith.
At the other end, Burke passed up a golden opportunity to make it four when he skied his shot from six yards and Rhian Brewster headed over from just two.
Substitutions continued to be made every couple of minutes throughout the second half which gave the match a disjointed feel and meant neither side was really able to get going.
With less than ten minutes remaining and with only a handful of players left on the pitch who had started the game, Freeman nodded in Jayden Bogle’s cross to make it 4-0.