A third defeat of week – and the most comprehensive – saw Rovers beaten 3-1 by Leeds United at Ewood Park.

Leeds showed their class, but Rovers gave them a helping hand, not least with the first goal that saw Patrick Bamford put the visitors 1-0 ahead in the seventh minute.

Sam Gallagher passed up an excellent chance at 1-0, while Lewis Holtby hit the post before Kalvin Phillips added a fine second five minutes before half time from a free kick.

An equally excellent free kick from Adam Armstrong, his 14th of the season, looked to have hauled Rovers back in to the game, but within five minutes the two goal lead was restored through Mateusz Klich.

It was a body blow for Rovers, and meant they spent much final quarter chasing Leeds passes around the park and rarely looked like forcing a way back in to the match.

It was a third two-goal defeat in a row, after 2-0 reverses on the road at Wigan and Barnsley, and things get no easy for Tony Mowbray’s side with games against Cardiff City, West Brom and Millwall to follow.

And with more injury worries to contend with, after captain Elliott Bennett was forced off in the first half, the outlook appears a difficult one for Rovers who now look set for nothing more than a mid-table finish.

Lewis Travis handed Rovers a boost by proving his fitness, shaking off a knee problem, and was one of three changes with returns for Darragh Lenihan and Sam Gallagher.

Gallagher was involved in the game’s first opportunity, trying to free the unmarked Adam Armstrong, with his pass eventually falling to Bradley Johnson who thumped an effort goalwards which Illan Meslier held on to.

But the visitors struck first, Rovers falling behind for the fifth successive match, and all through their own doing. Travis was robbed of possession by Mateusz Klich who was able to roll the ball in to the path of the unmarked Bamford who slotted beyond Christian Walton with ease.

Rovers faced the prospect of having to breach the league’s meanest defence to get back in to it, but within six minutes of Bamford’s opener had two glorious chances to level.

Joe Rothwell sliced Leeds’ defence open with an excellent pass meaning Gallagher didn’t have to break stride, but unable to get the ball fully out of his feet, he dragged a scuffed shot wide of the target.

The next chance fell to Lewis Holtby, Gallagher this time the provider, but the German’s shot came back off the inside of the post, but out of reach of the unmarked Armstrong.

It was a bright response from Rovers, but they continued to look susceptible on the turnover of possession, with far too many passes going astray.

But Leeds retained their threat, and were denied by the post themselves in the 21st minute, Bamford’s shot on the turn looking to have the beating of Walton before cannoning back off the post.

That came just before Rovers were forced in to a change, their left back issues continuing as Elliott Bennett hobbled off, with Stewart Downing on his place.

Further forward on the Rovers left, Joe Rothwell had shown some signs of life, but after linking up with Gallagher, couldn’t keep his shot on target from the edge of the box.

Rovers were trying to play, but that was just what Leeds wanted, as they continued to push bodies forward. Walton kept out a Barry Douglas inswinging corner with his feet at the near post, before the visitors did double their lead moments later.

Five minutes before the break Kalvin Phillips stood over a free kick, one he bent expertly over the wall and out of reach of Walton.

It was a body blow so close to half time for Rovers who went without a first half goal for the third game in a row.

Mowbray resisted temptation to change at the break, but did see his side haul themselves back in to the game just two minutes after the re-start. It owed much to the quality of top scorer Adam Armstrong who made it 14 for the season with a glorious free kick of his own which Meslier could just stand and watch nestle in the corner.

Leeds’ response was swift and emphatic. Rovers had been given a warning of Leeds’ threat down their left moments before when Luke Ayling drifted a left wing shot just wide of the target. It was from that flank again in the 53rd minute where Jack Harrison’s shot was blocked by Adarabioyo in to the path of Klich whose scuffed effort found a way in to the net via the post.

Mowbray turned to his bench just before the hour mark, Danny Graham and Dominic Samuel both introduced, while Leeds sent on Pablo Hernandez.

Leeds were looking the more threatening though, their movement in midfield causing particularly issues for Rovers, while Ayling’s breaks forward from right back were a real source of joy for the visitors.

Mowbray made two more changes, sending on John Buckley and Jacob Davenport to add fresh legs, but by this point Leeds were looking by far the stronger. Another through ball put Bamford clear with 18 play,  with Walton slow to come off his line, and could nothing but bring down the striker on the edge of the box. A yellow card was the result, before the keeper did well to keep out Douglas’ well hit effort.

A tame Dominic Samuel effort at the other end, which lacked any power to trouble Meslier, was a rare sight of goal for Rovers in the second half.

If anyone was going to score the game’s fifth goal, it would have been the visitors, Bamford having a shot blocked, while Liam Cooper glanced wide a Hernandez free kick.

But that was immaterial in a game which ended with the visitors firmly in control, leaving Rovers still stuck on 56 points, still four points shy of last season’s tally.

Rovers: Walton, Nyambe, Lenihan, Adarabioyo, Bennett (Downing, 21), Travis (Davenport, 69), Johnson, Rothwell (Buckley, 69), Holtby (Samuel, 59), Gallagher (Graham, 59), Armstrong

Subs: Leutwiler, Carter, Mulgrew, Chapman

Leeds: Meslier, Ayling, White, Cooper, Douglas, Phillips, Klich (Shackleton, 88), Roberts (Hernandez, 60), Harrison, Alioski, Bamford

Subs: Miazek, Poveda, Berardi, Struijk, Gotts, Davis, Stevens