Tony Mowbray said he gave consideration to making all five changes at half-time given the lack of energy his side showed in the first half.

Mowbray opted to start both Bradley Dack and Lewis Travis as they continue their comebacks from injury, but pointed to their lack of match sharpness as a contributing factor in a lacklustre display.

Rovers made seven changes from the side which lost in the FA Cup to Doncaster, with Dack and Travis two of those to keep their place, as did Bradley Johnson, albeit in a move into central midfield.

Jacob Davenport and Sam Gallagher were brought on at the break, with Johnson and Joe Rothwell the two to give way, as Rovers also switched system from 4-2-3-1 to 4-2-2-2.

However, it wasn’t until the closing stages that they came to life, finding an equaliser through substitute John Buckley 16 minutes from time.

Asked about the below-par showing, Mowbray said: “I can’t disagree, I think the team lacked energy.

“Our spark has been about our energy, disrupting the opposition, not necessarily playing free-flowing, fluent football from the back, we’ve been on the front foot and taking it off them and teams have found it difficult to play against that intensity.

“We didn’t look like we could score for 70 minutes, we needed more energy in the team and that’s the balance of Dack and Travis coming back from injuries, it’s a call you have to make of whether you’re going to get them fit by playing games or whether we leave them out and give them 20 minutes or half an hour.

“When you’ve got two or three players who aren’t at the level it’s difficult to maintain that.

“The calculation is can we get through and win football matches while we’re trying to get some of our better players fit to play in the team. That’s what we’re trying to do.

“You either leave them out and focus on this game or you give them some game-time, hope we can still win the match, and the benefits are huge if they get through 60 or 70 minutes in and getting closer to the maximum and get up to playing 90 minutes and helping the team win.

“I feel as though I’m criticising just two players, I think Bradley Johnson has been playing centre half and think he was off the pace of playing central midfield, the team struggled to get up to where we expect.

“I could have made five changes at half-time and I was seriously thinking about it, but it was easier to do it in stages.”

Mowbray was disappointed with the nature of the Stoke goal, Nick Powell heading home from a set play, having also scored with his head in the reverse fixture just a month ago.

But he felt his side’s inability to get up to the speed of the game hampered their ability to find any foothold in it, waiting until the 73rd minute for their first shot on target.

“We were playing against a good team who showed their qualities, but we were disappointed with the nature of the goal we lost,” he added.

“Their biggest threats came from set plays all day.

“The team was off its intensity levels that we normally play at, yet we played against a decent side who have some very experienced players who’ve played at a top level.

“We huffed and puffed and got a goal, ended up playing against 10 men which didn’t necessarily help us other than taking away their threat of trying to score a goal, but they put another centre half on and we didn’t really look like we were going to get the winner.

“We had plenty of stuff around their box but didn’t really pepper their goal. I think that’s the experience.”

Dack scored at Birmingham in Rovers’ first league match of 2021 and got over 70 minutes under his belt against Doncaster.

It was still a surprise to see him in the starting line-up against Stoke however, with Mowbray having stated in the lead-up to the game that he was between 60 and 70 per cent match fit.

Explaining his reasoning, the managers said: “They’ve played a back three for their last four games so if you go on the evidence of the game that we played a month ago, total domination of the ball, 70 per cent, playing around their box and trying to break them down, it was a game for Dack to start in my opinion.

“If we were going to be dominant with the ball then it wouldn’t have been much of a running game and Dack would have had that creativity around the edge of the box to hopefully open them up.

“Ultimately they played Mikel and Allen and were better with the ball than we might have anticipated, they played their shape, spread the game out, made it an end to end football match which didn’t help the players in my mind that lacked the intensity that we would normally want to play at.

“While we’re disappointed not to get three points, Stoke City are a decent football team and let’s not forget that.”