What will come first, a win at Wigan Athletic or a win in the FA Cup? It is now five straight defeats in this competition and 12 without victory at the DW Stadium.

Yet Rovers only had themselves to blame for letting a position of real strength slip through their fingers, quite literally.

Tony Mowbray’s changes have been relatively minimal despite their lack of cup success, but one constant thread has been the changing of goalkeepers. The role of a No.2 is a thankless task, knowing that unless there is an injury or suspension all your hard work throughout the week is likely to go unrewarded.

When you do play, it is always likely to be short-term, your performances compared to that of the No.1.

Aynsley Pears had gone over a year without a Championship appearance before starring in the win at Bournemouth last month having also kept a clean sheet in the victory over Preston North End and seeing out the Stoke City shut-out after Thomas Kaminski’s injury.

Yet, the Belgian was back in the side at the first possible opportunity and Pears had to wait until the FA Cup third round for his next change.

There would have been undoubted disappointment at losing his place.

His first opportunity to show his credentials once again saw him have an afternoon to forget.

Making mistakes comes with the territory, but the concern came more in his inability to put that behind him and respond. His nervousness spread throughout the team, one that had shown no sign of fragility since the Fulham defeat.

Pears hadn’t had a save to make until Max Power took aim from 25 yards, at that point Rovers 1-0 up and fully in control. It somehow found a way beyond the Rovers ‘keeper and with it a lifeline offered.

He flapped at two crosses, one seeing Kell Watts headed against the bar from a right-wing corner in the intervening 14 minutes before spilling a Jack Whatmough header over his own goal-line

At this point he would have wanted the ground to swallow him up, his one possible shot at redemption would have been had the game gone to penalties.

It looked as though it might at least head to extra time as Daniel Ayala headed in an equaliser from Reda Khadra’s free-kick in the dying seconds, the attacker having put Rovers 1-0 up with a stylish goal early in the second half.

Yet Pears’ positioning came into focus in the third minute of added time as Thelo Aasgaard’s curling effort from the left edge of the box looped over him to nestle in the net.

It sadly continued a theme for Rovers in the competition.

They exited at this stage for the fifth successive year, with goalkeeping errors always in the focus. Pears allowed Taylor Richards’ shot to squeeze beyond him against Doncaster Rovers in 2021, Jayson Leutwiler did the same in defeat to Birmingham City 12 months earlier, while in 2018 Ola Aina’s header somehow made it into the net as Hull City knocked Rovers out.

While the focus will undoubtedly be on Pears, it could equally highlight the importance and influence of Darragh Lenihan to this side.

Two of Rovers’ five defeats came when their captain was unavailable and the Irishman had been forced off at half time of the cup tie with a sore knee. Rovers will be desperate to ensure there isn’t any lasting damage.

Rovers had kept six clean sheets in their previous seven matches heading into the cup tie, but shipped three in the final half an hour, albeit with only Jan Paul van Hecke of that settled backline on the pitch.

It showed.

It too demonstrated the need for reinforcements this month.

Whether by fortune or good practice, Rovers have staved off Covid and injury concerns during a nine-match unbeaten record in the league.

Yet there are the first signs of creaks, Harry Pickering set for up to six weeks out, Ryan Nyambe and Scott Wharton unavailable for the cup tie while Lenihan was forced off injured. Sam Gallagher’s luckless run also continued as he hobbled off just half an hour into his first start since October 30.

It therefore doesn’t take much for the options available to Mowbray to look a little stretched.

While great to see talents such as Ash Phillips, Adam Wharton and Jake Garrett included in the matchday squad with a rise in the number of substitutes in the FA Cup, they are very much for the future than the here and now.

Rovers will have to overcome those tests if they are to maintain a promotion push, with Mowbray again stressing after the game the need for reinforcements. It will take some good negotiation, but it’s pivotal, not least with the feeling that those around them are taking the opportunity to strengthen.

There were five changes in all, and Rovers had an opportunity inside a minute, though Lewis Travis didn’t get enough purchase on his shot from 35 yards with Jamie Jones stranded outside of his goal.

In the 15th minute John Buckley danced his way into the box but opted to try and beat Jones at his near post, rather than square for the unmarked Ben Brereton, with the ‘keeper coming up with the save.

Gallagher tested Jones before being replaced while Brereton though he had opened the scoring when rounding the ‘keeper to slot home from a defence-splitting Joe Rothwell pass, only for the linesman’s flag to cut short his celebration.

Rothwell remains a key cog in this system, quite often a difference-maker, and the main moments of quality in the game came from his boot.

He switched the play to good effect before Khadra took up the attack to put Rovers 1-0 up.

There were a procession of ole’s from the near sold-out travelling support as their side dominated.

The game was firmly in their grasp until Power’s strike found a way beyond Pears and from that moment on it was a different game, even if Wigan still needed a helping hand to help them to victory.

Mowbray was quick to state that there was no dressing down after a first defeat since November 3 and that no-one would remember this afternoon should Rovers do the business at Cardiff City and continue their lofty Championship position.

That is all true, so too is the priority lies in the league. But the cup disappointment will drag into next season, Rovers knocked out by lower league opposition in the both the Carabao and FA Cup.