Rovers Ladies’ unbeaten pre-season sequence came to an abrupt end in controversial circumstances, as they lost 4-1 away to Morecambe.
In atrocious conditions, Rovers dominated the early exchanges, but were undone by a dubious decision midway through the first half. The linesman failed to flag for offside and a Morecambe player ran through to score.
With Rovers still reeling from the incident, Morecambe doubled their advantage five minutes later.
Things went from bad to worse for Roves on the half-hour mark, when Katie Brussell was adjudged to have brought down a player inside the box and Morecambe were awarded a penalty. Incensed by the decision, goalkeeper Jo Hutcheson came rushing off her line to remonstrate with the referee and was subsequently shown a straight red card. With no spare keeper on the bench, Amie Barratt was forced to don the gloves and the hosts made no mistake from the spot.
The stand-in stopper was then powerless to prevent Morecambe from adding a fourth from long range just before the break.
Rovers regrouped at half-time and were much improved after the interval. Gemma Donnelly’s side were dominant in possession, whilst Morecambe struggled to get out of their own half.
The visitors’ perseverance paid off when they too were awarded a penalty, which Lynda Shepherd duly dispatched.
Donnelly said: “The decision to allow their opening goal to stand, when their player was clearly offside, proved to be the turning point in the game. However, we dwelt too long on the decision, it had a knock-on effect and we were punished.
“In the second half, we showed our quality in possession and they couldn’t get the ball off us – even with a numerical disadvantage and an outfield player in goal.
“There are some very valuable lessons to be learned, with regards to naivety and discipline, but I’m glad we’ve identified these now and not during the season.
“Credit to Morecambe, because they were organised, resilient and hard working, but factors beyond our control, such as the lack of linesmen, meant that it was not a fair test. There are still some positives to take from the game and now that we’ve finalised our squad, we can do some really thorough work with what we consider to be our starting XI. Hopefully we can rectify our errors against Chorley at the weekend.”