ON the day Ruben Rochina edged closer to heading out of the Ewood Park exit door it was another former Barcelona youngster who denied Rovers a win in their final pre-season friendly before Friday’s big Championship opener at home to Cardiff City.
Gary Bowyer’s side looked to be heading for victory after Jordan Rhodes put them in front with an expertly taken goal in the 37th minute.
But Mark Hughes’ Premier League outfit ensured honours ended even after Bojan Krkic, their big summer signing from the Nou Camp giants, equalised in the 68th minute.
Before the match it was confirmed that Rovers striker Rochina, who like Bojan came through the ranks at Barcelona, had passed a medical at Granada ahead of his proposed move to La Liga.
For the third friendly running Bowyer was deprived of both of his targetmen, Rudy Gestede and Chris Brown, with the former still feeling the effects of a sickness bug that spread throughout the squad last week – which has also claimed the victim of winger Ben Marshall – and the latter still sidelined by a knee injury.
That led Rovers boss Bowyer, who was also without the suspended Lee Williamson after his sending off in the midweek draw at Bury, to naming Tom Cairney in the ‘hole’ behind lone striker Rhodes.
And it was reigning player of the year Cairney who was heavily involved in an opening 10 minutes dominated by the hosts.
Firstly the midfielder, after dispossessing Charlie Adam 35 yards from goal, chipped wide when, with Asmir Begovic straying off his line, the chance was on, before he chipped a delightful pass into the path of fit-again right back Alex Baptiste.
Baptiste, back in the side along with fellow defender Matt Kilgallon after the pair sat it out against Bury, pulled the ball back for Josh King, whose goalbound shot was blocked.
Stoke, managed by former Rovers player and boss Hughes, then went on to enjoy their best spell of the half.
Peter Crouch headed against the base of the post following a right-wing cross from David Bardsley before Jonathan Walters blazed over after good work on the byline by another player who used to ply his trade at Ewood, Mame Biram Diouf.
Walters then returned the favour to Diouf but his first-time effort, which was heading for the top corner, was deflected behind by Grant Hanley.
But Rovers, with Cairney and Craig Conway to the fore, survived the scares and went in front eight minutes before the break.
Conway, drifting out to the right from his starting position on the left, was the creator and Rhodes the scorer.
Rhodes pointed to Conway to where he wanted the ball played.
And the winger delivered the cross to perfection allowing the striker to nip in ahead of the Potters centre backs and glance a lovely 10-yard header past Begovic and into the back of the net.
The visitors, whose line-up included a third former Rovers player in Stephen N’Zonzi, made three changes at half-time including the arrival of their big summer signing, Bojan.
But it was Walters who nearly brought them level straight after the restart when he flicked over a quickly taken corner from Adam.
Bojan then jinked his way to the edge of the box before pulling the ball back for former Rovers transfer target Adam to curl the ball over from 20 yards when he should have at least troubled the underworked Paul Robinson.
Stoke, playing a completely different way to the style developed under their former manager Tony Pulis, were controlling possession and threatening an equaliser.
And, after Rhodes arched a header over from a King cross, they equalised 22 minutes from time.
N’Zonzi found Bojan in space 20 yards from goal and he did the rest as he drilled a low left-footed drive into the bottom corner.
With the first league game of the campaign just around the corner Rovers responded by taking off Rhodes and captain Hanley.
The key duo had earlier required treatment before returning to the field after being on the end of hefty challenges.
Further substitutions followed and Rovers, playing in their new ‘turbo green’ away kit for the first time, could not find a winner.
But neither could Stoke thanks to a stunning one-handed save from Robinson to deny Robert Huth.
Rovers: Robinson, Baptiste (Songo’o 85), Hanley (Taylor 70), Kilgallon, Spurr (Olsson 72), King (Henley 87), Lowe, Evans (Dunn 76), Conway, Cairney (O’Connell 89), Rhodes (Varney 70). Sub not used: Kean.
Stoke: Begovic (Sorensen 46), Bardsley, Shawcross (Wilson 64), Huth, Muniesa (Pieters 74), Arnautovic (Ireland 46), N’Zonzi, Adam (Whelan 64), Walters, Diouf, Crouch (Bojan 46). Sub not used: Ward.