Rovers Ladies’ six-game winning streak came to an end following a 5-1 defeat at home to table toppers Sheffield.
Playing their first league fixture since December, Rovers never got to grips with Sheffield’s pace or power and despite absorbing plenty of pressure, the hosts struggled to find their regular rhythm on the ball.
Sheffield started strongly and were three goals to the good by the midway point in the first half. Carla Ward opened the scoring on nine minutes, latching onto a long ball, before good combination play saw Jodie Michalska add a second. Ward then grabbed her second with a free header.
With a mountain to climb, Rovers improved after the interval, aided by the introduction of debutant Keira Walsh.
A lack of communication cost Rovers a fourth goal, scored by Isabella Hayes, before Evie Manning reduced the arrears on the hour mark, driving infield from the left flank before firing past the keeper from outside the box, only for Michalska to double her tally late on.
Rovers’ assistant manager Amanda Goodwin said: “At half-time, we spoke about playing for pride and showing Sheffield how good we can be. We came out much brighter and the changes made a difference.
“We gave them too much respect in the first half, but it was a much more positive performance from us in the second half. The players stuck to the game plan, they pressed quickly and they unsettled Sheffield.
“Sheffield are two years running league champions and are a different class in this division. They are so experienced and we are so young, we just couldn’t cope.
“The game is gone now and we move on. We take the positives out of the game, especially how well we played in the second half, we look forward to training hard this week and focus on the Derby game on Sunday.”
ROVERS: Hutcheson, Fleming, Seed, S. Hardy, Pennington, Bourne (Flynn 55), Savage (Walsh 46), Westerman (Adams 80), Manning, N. Forster, R. Hardy.
Subs not used: Musker, H. Forster.