Report: Rovers 1 Cardiff City 1
Rovers kicked off the 2014-15 season with a hard-fought point in an entertaining opener against Cardiff City.
It was a close contest at Ewood Park with the visitors taking the lead on 18 minutes. Kenwyne Jones arriving at the back post to head home after Mark Hudson had flicked on Peter Whittingham's free-kick.
Rovers hit back in style just before the break, Jordan Rhodes' tireless work saw him steal the ball before Tom Cairney took up the mantle to lash beyond David Marshall from 20 yards.
The second half saw Rovers dominate throughout without ever carving open the visitors. Marshall untested in the Bluebirds' goal as Rudy Gestede twice fired wide.
Rovers pressed late into the night but Cairney and Craig Conway both saw efforts fail to hit the target.
Gary Bowyer named a strong starting XI for the opening match of the new season with just the one new face as Alex Baptiste made his senior debut at right back.
Rudy Gestede returned after illness forced him to miss a couple of pre-season outings, but Tommy Spurr was absent with a groin injury whilst Chris Brown wasn't quite ready to be involved after a knee niggle.
A lively start saw Rovers have strong claims for a penalty waved away inside the opening two minutes. A ball in from the right struck the hand of Cardiff captain Mark Hudson but referee Andrew Madley deemed he was outside the box. Alas the resulting Tom Cairney free-kick couldn't clear the wall.
After the sedate nature of pre-season, it was a fast and furious at Ewood. Paul Robinson had to tip over under pressure from Aron Gunnarsson before Cardiff defender Matt Connolly headed the resulting corner narrowly over the bar.
Jordan Rhodes then tried his luck from outside the box from Rudy Gestede's flick on, the striker controlled the ball on his chest before letting fly, but his effort was a couple of yards over.
It was the visitors who were the livelier of the two and they took the lead on 18 minutes. After Matt Kilgallon was perhaps unfortunately to have been adjudged to have fouled Kenwyne Jones, Peter Whittingham sent the resulting free-kick into the area, Hudson flicked on and Jones was there to head beyond Robinson at the back post.
Rovers looked for an immediate response as a Craig Conway free-kick was kept alive by Gestede, but David Marshall dived to his right to claim Grant Hanley's toe-poked effort.
As the half wore it was Rovers who were seeing more of the ball, applying more pressure. A centre from Corry Evans saw Gestede miss with an attempted overhead kick, Craig Conway followed in but fired high over the bar.
However, the vocal home support didn't have long to wait to cheer as five mintes from half-time Rovers drew level in emphatic fashion. Jordan Rhodes battled well to rob Peter Whittingham of the ball Tom Cairney picked up possession and curled a 20-yard effort beyond the fingertips of David Marshall in the Cardiff goal.
Rovers were forced into a change at the break as Matt Kilgallon was replaced by Lee Williamson. The defender did fall heavily in the first half and previously had been troubled by a back injury in pre-season.
That meant a reshuffle at the back as Alex Baptiste moved inside to partner Grant Hanley with Jason Lowe moving to right back.
Despite the change it was Gary Bowyer's side who forced the pace, keeping possession well and pegging the visitors back for long periods.
Two minutes after the restart Rudy Gestede let fly from distance but his effort just cleared the crossbar.
Then the popular forward powered a header goalwards from a Craig Conway cross, but the ball bounced just wide of the upright.
Markus Olsson and Craig Conway were combining well down the left, the Swede sending over several dangerous crosses that merited more.
At the back Rovers had little to contend with, a rare effort from Guido Burgstaller from from Nicky Maynard's knockdown their sole effort towards goal in the second half. Paul Robinson untroubled.
As the game entered the final stages Rovers continued to press. Grant Hanley saw a header fail to trouble Marshall, whilst Cairney and Conway were both off target with long-range strikes.
It was a steady start to the season against fellow challengers for promotion.
ROVERS: Robinson; Baptiste, Hanley (c), Kilgallon (sub Williamson 46 mins), Olsson; Cairney, Lowe, Evans, Conway; Rhodes, Gestede.
Subs not used: Kean (GK), King, Dunn, Marshall, Varney, Taylor.
Goals: Cairney 40 mins.
CARDIFF CITY: Marshall, Brayford, Fabio, Hudson (c), Whittingham, Jones (sub Burgstaller 70 mins), Le Fondre (sub Eikrem 87 mins), Connolly, Gunnarsson, Daehli (sub Adeyemi 55 mins), Maynard.
Subs: Moore (GK), John, Kim Bo-Kyung, Theophile-Catherine.
Goals: Jones 18 mins.
Booked: Brayford, Hudson, Burgstaller.
Attendance: 15,625 (including 1193 visiting supporters).