Report: Fulham 2 Rovers 1
A slow start proved costly for Rovers as they went down 2-1 at Fulham on Sunday lunchtime.
Goals from Ross McCormack and Moussa Dembele put the home side in control inside the first 30 minutes of the match as Rovers struggled to get going.
But they ended the first half strongly with Nathan Delfouneso, Ben Marshall and Corry Evans denied by superb saves from Fulham keeper Andy Lonergan.
They maintained that momentum in the second half with Lonergan continuing to keep the visitors at bay until the 69th minute when Jordan Rhodes opened his account from the penalty spot after he had been fouled.
With their tails up Rovers then thought they had grabbed a deserved equaliser when the ball crossed the line after a clearance rebounded off Grant Hanley but the decision went against the Lancashire club despite their appeals.
Rovers pressed until the end with Fode Koita striking the post, but they couldn't grab that all-important second goal their play had more than merited.
The early Sunday start caught Rovers cold with the home side taking the lead from the very first attack of the match after just four minutes.
Jason Steele had been handed his first league start of the season in one of two changes from the side that drew with Bolton, but his first involvement was to pick the ball out of the back of the net.
Former Rover Ryan Tunnicliffe drove forward and as Moussa Dembele got the better of a stumbling Grant Hanley, the Fulham striker squared for Ross McCormack and he had time to control the ball before beating Steele from close-range.
The Scottish international then saw a back post header kept out by the Rovers keeper before he then turned provider for Dembele but the youngster's effort flashed just past the post.
Rovers finally rose from their slumber on 15 minutes with Ben Marshall playing a lovely ball through to Nathan Delfouneso, but Andy Lonergan made a fine save low down to the right,
However that was only brief respite as Fulham came back once more, McCormack flashing another effort just wide of goal.
But the pressure from the Whites eventually told as the home side deservedly doubled their advantage on the half hour.
Steele pulled off a superb double stop to thwart Tunnicliffe and Tom Cairney, but was powerless to prevent Dembele from firing high into the roof of the net to make 2-0.
The closing stages of the half saw Rovers finally put some pressure on their opponents, but they were unable to get the better of an inspired Lonergan in the Fulham goal.
Craig Conway saw a shot saved after cutting in from the left, before Corry Evans was denied as he let fly from a Jordan Rhodes knockdown.
The following corner saw Grant Hanley stoop to head narrowly over, before the half ended with another fine save as Lonergan somehow got down to keep out Marshall's close-range header.
Needing to start the second half as strongly as they ended the first, Gary Bowyer made a change at the break with Fode Koita replacing Nathan Delfouneso.
Immediately the Frenchman made his mark with a quickly taken free-kick that saw the ball find Marshall in the area, but his cutback from the byline struck Rhodes, then the post, but bounced wide of goal.
Moments later the three combined once more as Marshall set Koita racing down the right, but the forward's ball into the box was hit with just too much venom and Rhodes was unable to keep his header down.
Rovers continued to force the pace as they looked for a way back into the game, Koita acrobatically missed a centre from Conway, before another delivery from the Scot saw Rhodes head downwards but Lonergan claimed.
It was a man-of-the-match performance from the Fulham stopper. Even when he could only clear as far as Danny Guthrie, the keeper redeemed himself with a diving save to thwart Conway. He also had a touch of good fortune as another clearance ricocheted off Rhodes but wide of goal.
After dominating the last half hour of the match, Rovers were finally able to get the goal their attacking play had deserved.
On 69 minutes Conway sent another dangerous ball into the box and with Rhodes threatening he was brought crashing to the ground by James Husband and a penalty was awarded.
Rhodes immediately grabbed the ball and made no mistake from 12-yards, opening his account for the season as Lonergan dived the wrong way.
With the momentum firmly in Rovers' grasp they went looking for a second goal, and they should have been awarded one soon after.
After Conway missed a great opportunity when he scooped over the bar after Lonergan had flapped at a Spurr long throw, a Duffy header was cleared off the line by Ashley Richards with the ball rebounded off Hanley only for it to be cleared by O'Hara.
Rovers appealed that the ball had found the back of the net before O'Hara had cleared, replays show that the goal should have been given and that the officials had got it wrong.
Unbowed, Rovers continued to pour forward in the closing stages, with Fode Koita the width of a post away from opening his account for the season.
After makeshift striker Duffy saw his shot blocked, Koita took charge but was unfortunate to see his effort slam the woodwork and rebound to safety.
The game became stretched in added time with Steele saving well from Dembele, but Rovers were unable to fashion that one further chance to have given them a deserved share of the points.
FULHAM: Lonergan, Richards, Stearman, Cairney, Ream, Pringle (sub Fredericks 62 mins), Tunnicliffe, O'Hara, Dembele, Husband (sub Burn 89 mins), McCormack (c).
Subs not used: Lewis, Kacaniklic, Mattila, Woodrow, Christensen.
Goals: McCormack 4 mins, Dembele 30 mins.
ROVERS: Steele, Henley, Duffy, Hanley (c), Spurr, Marshall, Evans (sub Akpan 83 mins), Guthrie, Conway (sub Lawrence 89 mins), Delfouneso (sub Koita 46 mins), Rhodes.
Subs not used: Raya (GK), Kilgallon, Olsson, Williamson.
Goals: Rhodes (pen) 69 mins.
Booked: Hanley, Koita, Duffy.
Attendance: 14,372 (including 556 Rovers fans)