Tony Mowbray said Rovers couldn’t handle Reading’s physicality after their 4-2 defeat to Reading.

The visitors led after just eight seconds following a defensive mix-up enabled Yakou Meite to roll the ball into an empty net.

Adam Armstrong scored the first of his two goals to draw Rovers level in the fourth minute but strikes from Michael Olise and Josh Laurent had the Royals 3-1 up inside the opening quarter.

All three goals were hugely avoidable for a Rovers defence that looked shaky throughout the night, Lucas Joao adding a fourth goal in the closing stages after Armstrong’s 10th of the season threatened a comeback midway through the second half.

And Mowbray said: “I think their forwards were pretty good, we recognised that this week, and we had to perform better than we did defensively.

“I felt there were a lot of positives for us, but you can’t defend how we did. We fell a bit short, lacked confidence against the physicality we were playing against.

“The deeper we dropped, because of their physicality, it didn’t help how we play.

“I think we were much better second half and genuinely felt the first time they crossed the halfway line they scored.

“There were lots of positives. We’re a team on a journey, the signs are there, we have to keep believing and keep going, I think we can score goals, yet we didn’t handle their strikers.

“We had lots of spells in the game where we asked lots of questions of them, Armstrong scored two again, enough to give us encouragement that we are going to win a lot of games this season.”

Aynsley Pears endured a difficult debut, conceding after just eight seconds, following a mix-up with Barry Douglas who was making his Ewood debut.

Pears was drafted in after a groin injury to Thomas Kaminski who had looked impressive in the opening seven matches.

“Aynsley, with total respect to him, he’s come from Middlesbrough who are playing differently, if not massively different, from how we’re asking him to play, and he has to bed into this club,” Mowbray added.

“There was no intention to get him any game-time this soon, playing outside of his box is foreign to him, to be part of the build-up, and to concede a goal after eight seconds is very disappointing for him.

“He didn’t get much help from the players infront of him.”

The manager revealed that Joe Rothwell was due to start the game, only to be pulled out a matter of hours ahead of kick-off after complaining of a bad back.

Bradley Johnson and Amari’i Bell were also absent from the matchday squad after displaying Covid symptoms.