An ever-growing injury list took its toll, as Rovers Ladies slipped to a second straight defeat on their travels, going down 2-1 away to high-flying Nottingham Forest.
Rovers led at the break through Saffron Jordan’s fine finish, but second-half goals from Annabel McKechnie and Elizabeta Ejupi secured the points for the hosts, who rose to the top of the table.
After a slow start, Gemma Donnelly’s side began to take control, as Sophie Jones’ 30-yard strike had to be palmed behind, before Natasha Fenton’s curling shot went narrowly over.
Rovers were dealt a blow at the midway point in the half as goalkeeper Jo Hutcheson couldn’t continue and her replacement, Danielle Hill, was called upon to make a smart low save to keep out the Forest striker soon after.
Just past the half-hour mark, a Rovers free-kick was cleared as far as Cara Bickett, who struck the bar from the edge of the box. Seconds later, Rovers suffered a second injury setback when Vicky Westerman was forced off with fractured ribs.
Despite the early changes, Rovers opened the scoring on 35 minutes. Some good build-up play in midfield saw the ball worked wide to Jones, who found Jordan and the summer signing skipped past a couple of players before slotting home into the far left-hand corner.
Jordan came close to doubling her tally from a corner on the stroke of half-time, but she saw two shots blocked.
It was a different story after the interval, as Forest got on the front foot. They threatened three times in the opening five minutes of the second half, as Hill reacted well to keep out a deflected free-kick, before a cleared corner was fired over the bar and then another effort went wide.
Rovers’ first real attack arrived on 53 minutes, as Jones crossed for Jordan, who fired wide and just a minute later, Forest equalised. Rovers failed to clear their lines, the ball was played back in behind and McKechnie won the race to fire home.
Rovers came close to regaining their lead on a couple of occasions. On 65 minutes, Johnson made a good run to the byline, before cutting the ball back to Jordan, who shot wide on the turn, then on 81 minutes, a corner was dropped by the Forest stopper, sparking a goal-mouth scramble, but the goalkeeper eventually gathered.
And, with just four minutes remaining, the hosts secured the points, when Ejupi fired a free-kick from the edge of the area into the bottom corner.
A downbeat Donnelly said: “We started slowly, but we grew into the game and Forest caused us no real problems. Despite being forced into a couple of early changes, we were disappointed only to be 1-0 up at half-time.
“In the second half, Forest completely out-battled us in all areas of the park and we were on the back foot for large proportions of the game. However, we still felt that we had the quality to score and we created a couple of chances.
“Unfortunately, absentees and injuries have proven costly, given it was a top-of-the-table clash, and we feel that it’s three points dropped.”
ROVERS: Hutcheson (Hill 23), Bickett, Kinvig, Westerman (Adams 32), Taylor, Shepherd, Fleming, Fenton, Jones, Jordon, Johnson.