A guaranteed place in round five of the FA Cup slipped through Rovers’ fingers to bring about a replay that both clubs do without.

This was a game that was bookmarked by the visitors punishing Rovers’ mistakes.

While Jordan James’ late equaliser overshadowed what was a positive second half display from Rovers, the game was marred by allegations that Birmingham City goalkeeper Neil Etheridge was racially abused, with the game paused after the visitors’ second goal.

The incident will now be fully investigated by Rovers and the relevant authorities, with the allegations widely condemned.

It was a sour note from what had turned into an all-action cup tie, one which will need a replay to settle.

This was a game where three Rovers regulars, and two others enjoying something of a renaissance, were in the spotlight for different reasons.

Goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski is going through one of his biggest periods of struggle since his arrival at the club.

That is testament to his consistency in two-and-a-half seasons and the high standards he has set, but he will have been disappointed with the way he was beaten by Reda Khadra’s long-ranger and James’ scuffed effort.

Another Khadra effort also squirmed through his grasp which he was fortunate to see slide beyond the far post, while a couple of sliced clearances did little to build the confidence.

Any errors will of course be exemplified in the position he plays, and he has saved Rovers more than enough times this season, not least when these two sides met in October when he proved to be the difference.

But it wouldn’t have been the performance he would have wanted on the back of his mistake at Bristol City, having also seen a corner go directly into the net in the defeat at Rotherham United.

The one constant in the ever-changing midfield picture for Rovers has been Tyler Morton.

The Liverpool loanee is seen as integral to Rovers’ style by Jon Dahl Tomasson, but an attempted pass that never looked on was cut out in the lead-up to Khadra’s goal, the start of what was a tough afternoon for the 20-year-old.

It is a big task being asked of a player lacking in experience to play such an integral role, and dips in form were to be expected but he seemingly retains the backing of the head coach.

Behind Kaminski and Morton in the minutes’ stakes this season is Ben Brereton who has now gone 10 games without finding the back of the net. You have to go back to April 2021 to come across such a drought for Rovers’ top scorer.

Three times he was denied by Neil Etheridge before the clearest chance of all in the 64th minute.

Freed by Tyrhys Dolan he came face-to-face with Etheridge once again, and this time he did find a way beyond Etheridge with a dinked effort, only for the ball to drift wide of the post when the expectation was it would nestle in the back of the net.

It is an untimely wait for a goal for Brereton amid the ongoing speculation around his future, though the positive is that he is at least finding himself in goalscoring positions.

If Rovers are to achieve anything in the remaining games, then they will need to be able to count on their top scorer and his longer-term future to not become a greater talking point or distraction.  

Morton was partnered by John Buckley who touched the ball 105 times in his 75-minute outing. Yet there is a nagging feeling that Buckley can have a greater influence on games higher up the pitch, though he could simply be operating to instruction.

Captain Lewis Travis was on the bench for the seventh time in eight matches, a player who has gone from certain starter to fringe player of late.

Contrasted to that is the form and fortunes of Joe Rankin-Costello and Bradley Dack, Rovers’ goalscorers on the day and two players who are on the opposite end of the confidence scale.

The month of January could have been so much different for both.

Rankin-Costello was out of the first-team picture, not starting a game from August to December.

Yet he has dispelled any concerns about the right back position following the injury to Callum Brittain and deserves great credit for his turnaround.

Rankin-Costello looks fit, robust, and not lacking in quality, while his personality is also starting to shine through.

Equally, Dack was Rovers’ captain for the day and showed his predatory instincts once again to apply the finish after Rankin-Costello had a shot saved in the 33rd minute.

Dack said he needed a run in the side and has justified that belief by turning in the performances that he has.

In a side so lacking in goals, that 18-yard box quality, anticipation and instinct are invaluable. He now has four since the World Cup break in which he has started every game bar the Carabao Cup defeat to Nottingham Forest.

Rovers also benefited from the energy provided by Tyrhys Dolan in a second half where they put good passages of play together, aided by moving the ball much quicker than they had for periods in the opening 45 minutes.

Their shot count and intensity were high, and this could have been a straightforward afternoon had they found a third goal their play was beginning to threaten.

Tomasson named a strong side, making only two alterations, one of which was enforced due to Daniel Ayala’s suspension.

The worst possible start though was to concede early to a side operating with a back five and two defensive midfielders.

Things were a little flat until Dack’s equaliser, but after a goal inside the first minute of the restart Rovers put together their most fluid, attacking football for some time.

All that was missing was a crucial third goal, and Birmingham pushed hard to the hard, coming up with an equaliser just as five added minutes were signalled.

That means the tie will have to be settled in a replay on Tuesday.

There is the small matter of deadline day to contend with, which may actually be the bigger focus for some.

There is work still to do in the market but also if they are to book a place into round five.