Rovers endured a difficult start to their Premier League Cup campaign as Joe Lolley inspired Nottingham Forest to a 4-1 win at Meadow Lane.

Forest opted to hand Lolley some vital minutes on his return from Covid and he starred for the Reds, scoring twice in the first half in which he appeared to be on a one-man mission to impress the watching Chris Hughton.

For Rovers, they named a particularly youthful side, with five scholars in the starting line-up, including debuts for centre back George Pratt and attacker Harrison Wood.

They lost Jalil Saadi to injury in the warm-up and were behind after four minutes when Lolley scored a trademark, curling left-foot effort into the corner.

Sam Burns’ industry was rewarded with an equaliser, blocking an attempted clearance which found the back of the net, in the 15th minute.

Lolley doubled the lead with a right foot shot, one of six first half efforts, that crept under Antonis Stergiakis eight minutes before the break, while the second half had barely begun when Ateef Konate added a classy third.

Will Swan came off the bench to add a fourth at the midway point of a second half in which Rovers had to wait until injury time to muster an attempt on target, which left boss Mike Sheron to reflect on a difficult night.

He said: “It was tough. We knew we were going to be very young, we’ve had two scholars making their debuts and it’s a great experience playing at Meadow Lane against experienced lads.

“I was disappointed at times that we didn’t show our bravery in possession and lacked a bit of quality at times. It’s always going to be a tough night if you don’t keep the ball well enough and I didn’t think we were as organised as we could’ve been and will be in the future.

“It’s all about learning and we just have to make sure we are better the next time we come across more experience and older players.”

It leaves Rovers waiting for their first win of the season after four league and cup games, and despite seeing lots of the ball in those matches, they have struggled to make their territory count.

“Sam Burns has scored a few goals, he’s always willing and always wants to score goals and is full of enthusiasm, he just needs to hone a few little technical things, timings or concentration to hit the target,” Sheron added.

“Connor McBride has got quality, we just need to try and get him into those areas a bit more often than what he does.

“Luke Brennan has played the last couple of games and I feel as though he’s starting to get back into the swing of things but it’s tough.

“All we can keep doing is keep practising, keep understanding what we need to do to improve and keep pushing.”

A youthful look to the side was brought about by injuries, international duty and unavailability, but Sheron is hoping that picture will change heading into Friday’s trip to Brighton.

He said: “Jack Vale was away with Wales, Ash Phillips whose been great for us this year he’s playing for England Under-17s, Louie Annesley is away with Gibraltar, and we’ve got quite a few injuries.

“Sam Barnes, Isaac Whitehall, we lost Jalil before kick-off, but hopefully we’ll be a bit stronger at Brighton Friday. We’ve got Jared Harlock coming back which will be a big plus for us.

“Sam Durrant came on and he’ll be better the more games he plays.

“It was a difficult night, no-one can disagree that, but we have to keep improving and learning and it’s not about where we are now it’s about where we are in the next couple of months and I think there will be a big improvement.”