ROVERS have now lost their last four League Cup ties to lower-league opposition after they crashed out at the first-round stage for the second season running last night.
Gary Bowyer’s woefully out-of-sorts side, despite enjoying plenty of second-half pressure, were unable to force extra-time after Neal Bishop scored what ultimately proved to be the League One new boys’ 33rd-minute winner.
It meant Rovers, the 2002 winners, saw their 13-match unbeaten run in all competitions – a run stretching back to March – ended on what was a desperately disappointing night at Ewood Park.
But for the 4,801 home supporters in the sparse crowd it will come as no surprise after seeing their side go down to Carlisle United, MK Dons and Cardiff City in the past three campaigns.
And for Scunthorpe, for whom it was their first victory over Rovers, they can now deservedly look forward to a possible meeting with a Premier League outfit in the second round.
Rovers boss Bowyer made it clear before the clash that he wanted no repeat of last season’s first-round exit to another team from the third tier of English football.
But that did not stop him from making 10 changes to the team which started Friday’s Championship opener against Cardiff City with captain-for-the-night Jason Lowe the only player to survive.
Bowyer, however, must have been regretting his decision after the Iron, managed by former Burnley assistant boss Russ Wilcox and featuring Rovers old boy Eddie Nolan, took a fully merited lead into half-time.
It may have been different had David Dunn put a finishing touch to a thrilling run and cross from strike-partner Josh King inside the first 50 seconds.
But Dunn, under pressure, could only stab the ball wide from six yards out.
Although Ben Marshall, in his first outing since January, twice warmed the hands of Sam Slocombe before the break, it was Wilcox’s side who carried the greater threat, particularly down the flanks.
Jack O’Connell, making his senior debut for Rovers, and Yann Songo’o, making his first appearance at Ewood for the club, were forced to make important clearances before Jake Kean parried away a brace of dangerous crosses.
It was the first time that Rovers had encountered referee Sebastian Stockbridge since he awarded a scarcely believable penalty against them in a 2-2 league draw at Barnsley in February with a furious Bowyer subsequently landing a one-game ban and a £3,000 fine for his conduct after the match.
But Stockbridge did Rovers a huge favour in the 27th minute when he inexplicably awarded them a free kick in their own box when it was clear that the fit-again Adam Henley had fouled Bishop.
But Bishop was not to be denied.
After Sean McAllister blazed over from 20 yards the former Blackpool midfielder escaped the attention of Songo’o to meet an inswinging Gary McSheffrey free kick and flash a fine header past Kean, back in the team after an eight-month absence.
And sluggish Rovers nearly conceded again before the opening period was out when Chris Taylor almost turned another McSheffrey corner into his own net.
Surprisingly Bowyer chose not to bring on any of his big guns for the start of the second half.
But there was a change in tempo – and not before time.
Marshall whipped over a free kick from the touchline which evaded everyone in the area before it was touched around the post by Slocombe.
Then the winger stood up a cross for Songo’o – who felt he was being fouled – to slice wide of the post.
But Marshall, now fully fit after ankle ligament damage and a summer illness, was soon replaced by Craig Conway with Rudy Gestede also coming on for Dunn.
And the substitutes nearly had an immediate impact as Gestede, dead centre of the goal, headed over a Conway corner when he should have at least hit the target.
Gestede thought he had hit the back of the net 14 minutes from time but his close-range effort was ruled out after Stockbridge adjudged Luke Varney to have fouled Slocombe.
And the final opportunity of an instantly forgettable night seemingly fell to Varney who, 10 yards from goal, could only head into Slocombe’s arms from a Conway cross, but there was still time for Gestede to head straight at the Scunthorpe stopper.
Rovers: Kean, Lowe, Songo'o, O'Connell, Henley, Marshall (Conway 62), Williamson, Taylor (Cairney 78), Varney, Dunn (Gestede 62) King. Subs not used: Eastwood, Rhodes, Baptiste, Evans.
Booked: King, Varney, Williamson.
Scunthorpe: Slocombe, Nolan, Canavan, Llera, Dawson, Myrie-Williams, McAllister, Bishop, McSheffrey, Madden, Taylor (Addison 85). Subs not used: Severn, Sparrow, Hawkridge, Adelakun, Bateson, Wootton.
Goal: Bishop 33.
Referee: Sebastian Stockbridge.
Attendance: 5,352 (551 away).