Rovers reporter Rich Sharpe picks out five talking points from the Carabao Cup defeat at Newcastle United. 


In terms of technical play and neat build-up, this was some of the best football Rovers have played under Tony Mowbray. The patterns of play became more obvious as the game went on, and the ease in which they were able to work the ball into the final ball was promising.

For the opening hour, they struggled to test Mark Gillespie, their first attempt on target coming from Ben Brereton’s strike from distance, something there appeared to be a reluctance to do before that.

That soon changed following the introduction of Adam Armstrong, while Lewis Holtby also took aim from distance, as Rovers began to turn the screw.

Rovers need to hit test the opposition more though to make the most of their territory, and after the weekend defeat at Bournemouth, Mowbray admitted his side looked like one that would need to create more chances to score a goal than the opposition.

That rang true here, but for much of the match they were without top scorer Armstrong, as well as talisman Bradley Dack, and their other centre forward option, Sam Gallagher, so Mowbray will hope their respective returns to the side will coincide with a greater goal threat.



One man looking to supply that forward line is Lewis Holtby. He finished last season playing as the most advanced central attacker, but with his back to goal, he was ineffective, and his fitness meant completing matches was often unlikely.

Here, in a more-favoured deeper role, he looked willing to engage in challenges, but more importantly for Rovers, had an eye for getting on the ball and picking a pass. From watching him at close quarters, he’s also a very vocal figure on the pitch, and as one of their most technical players, Mowbray will hope that will transpire in to him taking extra responsibility, particularly given the departure of Stewart Downing.

He too will need to find the back of the net when playing in the more advanced central midfield role, unfortunately not to back-up his free-kick against Doncaster at Bournemouth when the linesman’s flag denied him an opening day goal.

But the one blot on his copybook here was a miss from 12 yards after timing his run perfectly to meet Ryan Nyambe’s cross which should have really found the corner.



The first two years of Derrick Williams’ time at Rovers were plain sailing, winning the club’s player of the year prize in his debut season at the club and playing all but one game of their League One promotion campaign.

Things have been a little more difficult in his next two years, switching from predominantly a left back to wanting to compete for a central defensive spot, while niggling muscle injuries have been a source of real frustration.

For the second year running however, and despite not playing since January, Williams has found himself in the side for the opening matches of a season. His understanding with Darragh Lenihan is a good one, the pair look to complement each other well, and Williams has proven to be a dependable figure when alongside his Irish compatriot, but most importantly, when fully fit and focused.

His future remains uncertain, and whether Rovers move for another central defender could well come down to whether Williams moves on, which remains in the balance. All parties may think it’s time for a fresh start, Williams seems keen on a move to the MLS, but that is reliant on them stumping up the cash.

While he remains a Rovers player, they have a more than competent left-sided central defender, who can cover at left back, a more than useful commodity in today’s game. As too is his ability to get on the end of set plays, scoring in the friendly against Leicester, and going close on several occasions here.



Rovers’ issues defensively in their most recent two fixtures haven’t been individual errors, but often down to their shape when losing the ball. Ryan Nyambe is spending much of the game as a right winger, and even with his pace, getting back to stop counter-attacks is beyond him given his high starting position.

Teams could well begin to set the trap of allowing Rovers to have the ball, knowing that on the turnover of possession they can spring an attack and often find themselves three-on-three.

Ryan Fraser’s goal was against the run of play, and the best move Newcastle put together all night by a street, and in the moments after that, Rovers did find themselves short of numbers at the back as Miguel Almiron came more into the game.

The shape behind the ball was much better in the second half, Joelinton’s solo run and shot apart, with Lewis Travis doing a good job in sensing the danger, but a lack of care in possession from Newcastle did aid their cause.

Rovers will be expected to dominate the ball against Wycombe on Saturday, and their defensive shape will be something to watch.



Joe Rothwell was on set plays for the most part at Newcastle, and while his corners did have some success, with Williams in particular doing his best to turn them goalwards, his floated deliveries from deep free kicks were a frustration.

On too many occasions Mark Gillespie was able to relieve the pressure on his back four, who were often under the pump, by catching set plays unchallenged.

Rovers have been spoilt with set piece takers down the years, in more recent times Charlie Mulgrew being a reliable set piece man, but with him well down the pecking order, and Downing having now moved on, there’s a position up for grabs when it comes to set plays.