Report: Reading 3 Rovers 1
Rovers suffered a second successive defeat as they went down 3-1 at Reading.
Despite the Lancashire side seeing more of the ball throughout, poor goals conceded and an inability to convert their own chances would prove costly at the Madejski Stadium.
Rovers started strongly but lapses at the back ensured a first half headed double from Yann Kermogant would put the Royals firmly in command.
After Sam Gallagher saw a goal ruled out at the end of the opening half, Rovers continued to press for a way back into the match. Gallagher then struck a post early in the second half, whilst subs Marvin Emnes and Lucas Joao both went close.
They finally got their reward when Elliott Bennett added to his personal goal of the season competition with a superbly struck effort on 77 minutes.
However the home side restored their two-goal advantage just a minute later. Substitute Garath McLeary curling the ball beyond Jason Steele to ensure it was Reading who would claim the points.
Both sides made three changes following the quick turnaround from the weekend matches. Into the Rovers side came Hope Akpan, Liam Feeney and Sam Gallagher, with Danny Guthrie, Marvin Emnes and Lucas Joao dropping to the bench. Whilst the Royals starting eleven saw Adrian Popa, Reece Oxford and Jordon Mutch replace Jordan Obita, Garath McCleary, and Daniel Williams.
It was Rovers with the early possession and pressure, forcing a couple of early corners. However from one a collision between Charlie Mulgrew and Derrick Williams left the pair prone on the ground.
But whilst Williams picked himself up, Mulgrew was unable to continue, the Scot stretchered off with Tommie Hoban on as a 10th minute replacement.
But as well as Rovers had started, it was all undone by a soft goal conceded in the 14th minute from the home side's first attack.
Full-back Blackett was allowed to run unopposed towards the left corner of the area and he as picked out Kermogant at the far post and the striker planted his header back across goal beyond Jason Steele. It was all far too easy.
Rovers looked for a quick response as Elliott Bennett found space going forward, but from outside the area he could only find the fans behind Ali Al Habsi's goal.
The visitors continued to dominate possession, but again they were caught out at the back with poor defensive play on 29 minutes. This time it was Swift with the centre from the left, Kermogant able to pick his spot in the corner of the goal with a firm header for his and Reading's second.
Rovers did have the ball in the back of the net from a late Craig Conway free-kick that Sam Gallagher forced home at the back post, but he was flagged offside to leave Tony Mowbray's men plenty to do at the break.
Needing to carry more attacking threat the Rovers boss made his final two changes at the start of the second half as Lucas Joao and Marvin Emnes were introduced. Darragh Lenihan, who picked up a knock towards the end of the first half, and Craig Conway, the men who made way.
That meant a back three of Ryan Nyambe, Tommie Hoban and Derrick Williams, four across the middle, with Emnes behind Gallagher and Joao up front.
Almost immediately Portuguese striker Joao was in the thick of the action, putting a shot from the edge of the area just past the post.
Then Bennett hit a deep cross that found Emnes at the back post, but from an impossible angle he could only divert it onto the roof of the net.
Urged on by a noisy travelling support, the Rovers continued to press for a way back into the game. Another cross from Bennett saw Joao get a touch in the six-yard box, Gallagher arrived only to see his effort hit the post, the striker finding himself in the back of the net rather than the ball as Al Habsi claimed the rebound.
Rovers continued to force the Royals back as Emnes struck over the bar, before Feeney cut in from the right to fire just wide of the near post. But on 77 minutes they finally got the goal back that their play had deserved.
There seemed little on as Bennett made his way along the edge of the box, but he found the back of the net in emphatic fashion with a stupendous right-footed strike that gave Al Habsi no chance.
But any chance of that setting up a grandstand finish evaporated a mere 60 seconds later.
It looked like Rovers had seen off the Reading danger with a series of blocks, but substitute McLeary hit a curling effort into the far corner of the goal to restore the home side's two-goal advantage.
The game became stretched in the closing stages as Rovers committed more men forward. On the break John Swift fired straight at Steele, before the keeper thwarted Danny Williams.
Whilst the other end Al Habsi was fortunate to see his clearance rebound of Emnes and behind for a goal kick. It was the closest they would come to add to their tally.
Rovers deserved more than they got at the Madejski, but a poor first half display left them with too much to recover from.
READING: Al Habsi, Gunter, Beerens, Swift, Moore, Kermogant, Blackett, Popa (sub McCleary 55 mins), Kelly (sub Williams 63 mins), Oxford (sub Ilori 73 mins), Mutch.
Subs not used: Jaakkola (GK), Mendes, Watson, Grabban.
Goals: Kermogant 14, 29 mins, McLeary 78 mins
Booked: Blackett 47 mins.
ROVERS: Steele, Nyambe, Lenihan (sub Emnes 46 mins), Mulgrew (sub Hoban 10 mins), Williams, Conway (sub Joao 46 mins), Lowe (c), Akpan, Feeney, Bennett, Gallagher.
Subs not used: Raya (GK), Guthrie, Mahoney, Brown.
Goals: Bennett 77 mins.
Attendance: 15,353 (including 480 Rovers fans).