Rovers secured a top four finish despite their Premier League 2 campaign ending with a third successive defeat.

As they did seven days earlier, Chelsea got the better of Rovers, this time at the Lancashire FA headquarters, to cement their spot as runners-up to Manchester City, running out 4-2 victors.

The visitors were much more ruthless with their chances, and excellent counter-attacking was Rovers’ undoing in an entertaining game that Billy Barr’s side played their part in as they continue to punch above their weight.

Excellent finishes from Sam Durrant and Sam Burns had twice got Rovers back into the game after trailing to two Henry Lawrence strikes at the break, but two more on the break from Bryan Fiabema and Harvey Vale saw the visitors to victory.

Dan Butterworth wasn’t involved, with the attacker, who played 90 minutes in the 1-0 defeat at Chelsea last week, expected to be part of the first-team squad against Birmingham City. For a second successive game, Stewart Downing was part of the Rovers backroom team.

There was a switch to a back four, with recalls for Jared Harlock and Sam Durrant, and it was Rovers who had the better of the early exchanges, not giving Chelsea a chance to breathe in possession, continually winning the ball high up the pitch.

Sam Burns’ tireless energy was key to that, and he had the first sight of goal 12 minutes. Found by an Isaac Whitehall through ball he was free of the last defender, but his shot was saved by a strong right hand from Chelsea keeper Lucas Bergstrom.

The visitors had an equally clear sight of goal 10 minutes later. George Nunn, scorer of a controversial winner last week, was found unmarked eight yards out by a Myles Peart-Harris cross, the striker missing his kick, and Lawrence guilty of glazing the ball over the top as the ball stayed alive in the box.

Back came Rovers however, Dan Pike getting forward from right back, and when found by a ball across the box by Connor McBride, he whistled a shot across goal which narrowly missed the far post.

Chelsea’s approach was to play on the break, and they executed a fine move eight minutes before the break to take the lead. Dujon Sterling, Peart-Harris and Nunn were all involved to tee up Lawrence who this time found the corner with a neat finish.

He then switched flanks to the right, and doubled his, and Chelsea’s tally, just before half time. The provider this time was Vale, cutting the ball back to Lawrence on the opposite side of the box, the wing-back having a simpler finish this time into the corner.

Rovers needed a fast start to the second half and they got one, and it brought them a route back into the game.

Good work from the impressive Jake Garrett, and a strong Harlock tackle, set up a shooting opportunity for Durrant, his left foot shot from 20 yards dipping just enough to find the back of the net.

And there was almost an equaliser, a Harlock cross met by captain Sam Barnes whose headed flew just over the bar.

Yet with one loose touch, Rovers found themselves two goals behind again 10 minutes after the re-start. Harlock lost possession, with one pass putting substitute Fiabema clear, the striker showing the required composure to thump a shot beyond Eastham.

Rovers weren’t giving the game up though, despite being punished on the break, and with 19 minutes to play they were back in the game once again.  McBride won the ball and spotted the run of Burns, the striker taking the ball down on his chest before an instant finish found the net.

Yet the theme continued of Rovers no sooner getting themselves back in the game, than Chelsea hit back. Seconds later, Vale rode the challenge of Barnes before his left foot shot found its way beyond Eastham from the edge of the box, and the task returned to trying to overcome a two-goal deficit.

There was concern before the end, Garrett unable to continue following a strong challenge, and with all three substitutes made, Rovers had to play the final five minutes with 10 men.

They thought they had a third as the game ticked into injury time, Barnes rising highest to meet a deep cross, his header looping over the goalkeeper, Rovers’ appeals that the ball had crossed the line as it was headed away fell on deaf ears, and with it, a 4-2 defeat to end the season.

Rovers: Eastham, Pike, Barnes, Saadi (Annesley, 65), Cirino (Nolan, 63), Whitehall, Garrett, Harlock, Durrant (Durrant, 74) McBride, Burns

Subs: Stergiakis, Gent