Rovers ran in 10 goals across two 70-minute matches against TSV Hartberg in the scorching Austrian sun.

Rich Sharpe runs through the talking points from the two games, and what Jon Dahl Tomasson will have taken from the second friendly.



“We were dominant with and without the ball and played on the front foot as well,” said Jon Dahl Tomasson after seeing his side run in 10 goals in their second pre-season friendly.

The success, or failure, in doing those things are what Tomasson regularly references after a win or defeat.

No-one will be getting carried away, but it would be hard not to be positively encouraged on the back of the two showings that could barely have gone any better.

Many of the goals scored were either well worked, or well taken, some the product of excellent pressing off the ball, others due to team work on it.

Sam Gallagher scored Rovers’ 10th with an emphatic finish, just reward for many excellent runs in behind he made that weren’t always found.

It is that quality from his No.9 that Tomasson wants to see, but didn’t enough last season.

Gallagher also claimed an assist, while fellow striker Harry Leonard chipped in with two to go alongside his goal.

There were two assists for Dilan Markanday, though still work to do for the winger if he’s to properly convince Tomasson of a more regular role, both in terms of the number of touches he takes, and his work off the ball.

The second Hartberg team were the stronger of the two, and came into things in the second half when Rovers tired in the scorching heat, but there was still a gulf in quality.

Rovers’ rotation and intensity were too much for their Austrian hosts, made even more impressive in the temperatures the game was played in.

Seventy minutes felt right given the conditions, and getting that into the legs of many of the squad at this stage in pre-season was a real positive to take.



A right back scoring a hat-trick is as rare as it gets. But this is no ordinary right back.

Joe Rankin-Costello has picked up where he left off last season, following up an assist against Accrington Stanley with three goals against Hartberg.

Always able to sniff out a goal at youth level, the 23-year-old is proving that a move further back on the pitch at first-team level isn’t about to stop him having an impact in the final third.

At a time when Rovers’ goal output ahead of the new season is being questioned, it wouldn’t be of any surprise to see Rankin-Costello hit double figures in 2023/24.

A move into midfield has been mooted, but such is the licence he is given in his current role, and the options Rovers have in the middle of the park, keeping him exactly where he is would seem the best way to go.



Anyone questioning the role that Lewis Travis may have in the forthcoming season on the back of the arrival of Sondre Tronstad, and/or the potential interest from elsewhere, would be reconsidering on this evidence.

Travis was at his snarling best in his first pre-season outing having missed the Accrington Stanley friendly for personal reasons.

He had a hand in the first goal, scored a delightful 40-yard chip, while he started many of the pressing actions that led to wave after wave of Rovers attacks.

Given the surroundings it was also easy to pick up how vocal Travis was, dishing out the orders from his central midfield berth.

He led by example with his work off the ball and remains one of a kind in the work he does for the team.



Tomasson has stressed the need for reinforcements but there is already no shortage of competition in some areas.

Pre-season is the perfect time to push forward your case, with Ryan Hedges having now contributed two goals and two assists as he looks to be Rovers’ man on the right for the start of the season.

Harry Leonard has impressed behind the scenes, becoming more accustomed to the work off the ball that was required to become a more regular part of the squad and added two goals and an assist to his tally.

Jake Batty has also caught the eye enough for Rovers to be relaxed about bringing in another left back, despite the impending departure of Tayo Edun.

Whether it be challenging for a place around the squad, simply catching the eye, wanting more involvement than last season or carrying on where you left off, there is something for everyone in the squad to fight for.



Rovers were without three players having picked up injuries in training in the lead-up to the game.

Harry Pickering’s is the least concerning, the left back missing out with an ankle knock, though one which wouldn’t have ruled him out of a league game, Tomasson confirmed after the match.

Arnor Sigurdsson didn’t feature having sustained a recurrence of the groin problem that had previously seen him miss Iceland’s two games last month.

It means the 24-year-old is yet to see any pre-season minutes, and his preparations will need to be monitored closely, particularly given his season in Sweden didn’t finish until early last month.

An injury more serious appears to be that of Jack Vale who pulled out of training on Thursday with a hamstring issue.

The striker enjoyed a productive pre-season last summer, enough to earn him a spot in the starting line-up on the opening day, but this one could well prove to be disrupted.



The logistics behind the Austria trip haven’t been easy for anyone.

At least 150 Rovers fans battled those issues to make the trip to watch their side in action.

Staff and players were particularly welcoming and appreciative of that, showing their thanks by posing for pictures and signing autographs, while director of football Gregg Broughton was never short of company in the stands.

Yet the players, at least those of a golfing persuasion, were also clamouring for a picture with US golfer Harold Varner III, world ranked number 83, who was watching on with his agent, a Rovers fan, from the stands.

A diminutive figure he may be, but he courted plenty of attention.