Rovers dominate from start to finish but exit the Carabao Cup

Rovers will need to break the pattern soon of being the better side but coming out on the wrong side of the result.

They exited the Carabao Cup in the second round after a 1-0 defeat at Newcastle United, courtesy of Ryan Fraser’s first-half goal. At the time it was against the run of play, and on the balance of the 90 minutes, was a scoreline that even the most ardent of Newcastle fans would argue was undeserved.

However, that’s of little solace to Rovers who got no reward for all of their good play, the only thing missing was a goal. The criticism of the first half was a lack of cutting edge and end product, but they were more purposeful after the break, camping themselves around the edge of the Newcastle box.

The visit of Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday is undeniably the bigger game of the two this week, and Rovers go in to it with yet more positives from their display, but they will certainly take a lesser performance but three points in their second Championship fixture.

The possession stats said it all in the opening stages, Rovers enjoying more than 80 per cent of the ball in a game that had a pre-season feel to it given the amount of changes the hosts had made.

Tony Mowbray made just two alterations, partly owing to the lack of numbers at his disposal, with Corry Evans and Bradley Johnson ruled out with ankle injuries, but the Rovers boss has been committed throughout his time in charge to name strong sides.

That included a first start for Tyrhys Dolan, and it was from the right where he operated that  Rovers looked strong early on. His link-up with Ryan Nyambe sent the full back clear in the 12th minute and his cross should have led to the opener, but Lewis Holtby could only fire wide of the target.

Rovers were recycling possession well, with Newcastle struggling to get a foothold, and after Joe Rothwell turned down an opportunity shoot from distance after seizing on a loose pass, Joe Rankin-Costello didn’t when his chance came, but he snatched at it somewhat as Mark Gillespie watched it wide.

For all their 10 changes, Newcastle were still able to field a £60m strikeforce in Joelinton and Miguel Almiron, and plenty of other plenty of experience.

They threatened to link up in the 19th minute, but a scrambled Rovers defence cleared the danger, while as the set piece count rose at the midway point of the half, Emil Krafth headed wide a Matt Ritchie delivery.

Rovers were quickly back in their passing stride though as the pattern of the game was set with them dominating the ball, but struggling to test Mark Gillespie.

Then came the sucker punch they suffered at Bournemouth, falling behind when playing the better football, with Ryan Fraser putting the hosts ahead against the run of play 11 minutes before the break. A neat reverse ball from Almiron put the debutant through, and one-on-one with Kaminski, he found the back of the net.

As at Bournemouth, Rovers found themselves behind, despite being the better side, with a lack of cutting edge seeing them have little to show for all their possession. They were susceptible to the counter-attack whenever they lost the ball, and were almost made to pay before the break as Almiron showed Lenihan a clean set of heels, but fired over the top.

While Rovers emerged unchanged from the dressing room, there was a switch of positions, as Dolan went to lead the line, with Ben Brereton, ineffective in the first half, moving to the right.

Rovers’ attacking play was summed by a 50th minute move which saw a lovely Dolan flick free Bell who was able to break to the edge of the box, but as it came to making a decision, his attempted pass went straight out of play.

They continued to play some excellent football, but were guilty of over-playing around the edge of the Newcastle box, with shooting opportunities not being taken.

Brereton did finally try his luck from distance, with Gillespie equal to his shot with a smart stop, as Bell’s follow-up was blocked. Adam Armstrong was called for on the hour mark as Rovers continued to press, another Holtby effort flashing just wide.

There was always the danger of Rovers being caught on the break, and that was how it played out in the 64th minute as Joelinton led a three-on-three break, but was selfish in going himself from distance, with Kaminski equal to his strike.

Rovers made changes two and three as John Buckley and Harry Chapman were sent on, with the early sub, Armstrong having been starved of the ball. He didn’t need telling what to when 25 yards out, though Gillespie held on to his daisy-cutter.

Poor delivery from set plays allowed Newcastle to ease the pressure too often, but Rovers kept going until the very end, their hopes finally ended after 95 minutes of pressing, as Williams volleyed over another corner.

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