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Report: Rovers 1 Stoke City 1

3 August 2014

Rovers ended their pre-season preparations unbeaten with a 1-1 draw at home to Stoke City.

The draw was the fair result in an entertaining Ewood encounter, as first half header from Jordan Rhodes was cancelled out by a second half strike Stoke new-boy Bojan.

Rovers are next in action on Friday night when they kick off the football season at home to Cardiff City.

Boss Gary Bowyer named a strong starting eleven on their return to Ewood Park.

New signing Alex Baptiste made his bow at right back alongside the regular defensive trio of captain Grant Hanley, Matt Kilgallon and Tommy Spurr. Paul Robinson in goal.

Tom Cairney operated just behind striker Jordan Rhodes with a familiar midfield four of Craig Conway, Corry Evans, Jason Lowe and Joshua King.

It was the home side who carried the threat early on, just two minutes in and an error by Stoke midfielder Charlie Adam was seized upon by Cairney but his attempted chip was off target.

Five minutes later a well-worked move from Rovers saw Baptiste cut the ball back for King but his goal-bound shot was blocked with Rhodes unable to make the most on the follow-up.

As the half wore it was the visitors who started to force the pace. A cross on the right from Phil Bardsley found Peter Crouch lurking but his diving header bounced off the foot of the post and wide.

Crouch then turned provider with a lovely lay-off for former Rover Mame Biram Diouf, but as he cut the ball back for another former blue Jonathan Walters, the forward skied his effort.

Rovers had Matt Kilgallon to thank for keeping the scoreline level on the half hour mark as Walters brilliantly picked out Diouf, the Rovers defender throwing himself into the block to thwart the Stoke man.

Rovers came back into the match and dominated the final fifteen minutes of the half. A Craig Conway centre picked out Josh King at the back post but he couldn't keep his header down.

Rovers didn't have long to wait for the opening goal, coming on 38 minutes with a familiar duo combining. Craig Conway delivering a perfect centre for Jordan Rhodes in the area and he glanced the ball beyond Asmir Begovic.

Rovers ended the half strongly but they couldn't add to their lead before the break.

Mark Hughes' side made three changes as the second half got underway, Thomas Sorensen replaced Begovic in goal, whilst Marko Arnautovic and Peter Crouch were replaced by Simon Ireland and Bojan Krkic.

It was Bojan that threatened early in the second, a jinking forward run saw the former Barcelona man feed Charlie Adam but the midfielder fired over.

The Potters were certainly carrying more of a threat, only an excellent last-ditch challenge from Baptiste prevented Mame Biram Diouf from getting a shot away.

It was a good exercise in shape and discipline for Rovers with the Premier League side having much the better of play, but they should have done better when Stoke levelled on 69 minutes.

Steven Nzonzi was given far too much room to find Bojan and with space to run into he drilled a shot from outside the box low into the bottom left corner of Paul Robinson's goal.

Both Grant Hanley and Jordan Rhodes had received treatment for knocks and with an eye on next Friday's opener against Cardiff City they were taken off on 70 minutes. Chris Taylor and Luke Varney on in their place.

Markus Olsson was also introduced, replacing Tommy Spurr, with David Dunn taking the place of Corry Evans.

It was a lively cameo from fans favourite Dunn as twice he was felled on the edge of the box, but neither Conway nor Cairney could test Sorensen from the resulting free-kicks.

Stoke had chances to win it also as Mame Diouf headed onto the roof of the net before Robinson saved well to deny Robert Huth from close-range.

Adam Henley, Yann Songo'o and Jack O'Connell all saw game time as the match drew to a close. The next time Ewood sees action will be the big opening match against Cardiff in five days time.

ROVERS: Robinson; Baptiste (sub Songo'o 85 mins), Hanley (c) (sub Taylor 70 mins), Kilgallon, Spurr (sub Olsson 73 mins); King (sub Henley 87 mins), Lowe, Evans (sub Dunn 76 mins), Conway; Cairney (sub O'Connell 89 mins), Rhodes (sub Varney 70 mins).

Subs not used: Kean (GK).

Goal: Rhodes 38 mins

STOKE CITY: Begovic (sub Sorensen 46 mins), Bardsley, Huth, Muniesa (sub Pieters 73 mins), Arnautovic (sub Ireland 46 mins), Nzonzi, Adam (sub Whelan 63 mins), Shawcross (c) (sub Wilson 63 mins), Diouf, Walters, Crouch (sub Bojan 46 mins).

Subs not used: Ward.

Goal: Bojan 69 mins

Attendance: 4,351 (including 795 visiting supporters).

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