Rovers Ladies were beaten 4-1 by Sheffield United Women in a controversial Continental Cup encounter at Olympic Legacy Park.
Katie Wilkinson’s double put the Blades in control at the break. Sam Tierney and Jade Pennock added further goals before Saffron Jordan’s consolation penalty.
But the big talking points will be the awarding of United’s early penalty and subsequent red card for handball, before Rovers were denied a spot-kick for the same offence in the second period.
Gemma Donnelly made five changes to her side, including handing a debut to Millie Robertson. But her first start lasted only half an hour, as she was stretchered off injured.
Rovers started brightly but were up against it when Chelsey Jukes was adjudged to have handled the ball to prevent a goal and was shown a straight red card. Wilkinson converted the resulting spot-kick, giving United an early lead.
At the other end, 10-player Rovers kept pushing and when Rhema Lord-Mears saw Emily Batty off her line, her effort just landed the wrong side of the bar.
United added a second before the break. Wilkinson looked to be offside at the back post when she headed in from close range, but the linesman kept his flag down and the striker had her brace.
Lauren Perry denied the hosts a third in added time when she made a superb one-on-one save to keep out Pennock.
But within eight second-half minutes it was three. Sam Tierney found the net, heading in Aimee Palmer’s cross to give the home side an unassailable lead.
Rovers should have had a route back into the game when Leandra Little appeared to handle Jordan’s goalbound shot, but no penalty was given.
United’s fourth came soon after. Pennock fired into the roof of the net, finding herself free at the back post.
Rovers grabbed a deserved consolation when Hartley brought down Jordan in the box and the referee pointed to the spot. The skipper made no mistake, firing her penalty into the top corner.
Lord-Mears had a chance to score a second when she forced Emily Batty into a diving save before dragging the rebound wide.
And Perry made another good diving stop in stoppage time to deny Palmer a second, but it made little difference to the result.
Next up for Rovers after the international break is another Continental Cup Group game, at home to Liverpool at Bamber Bridge on Thursday 21 November, 7:45pm. Get tickets here.
ROVERS: Perry (GK), Jukes, Taylor, Holbrook, Davies (Whitham 69), Fenton, Jordan (C), Lord-Mears, Burrows, Robertson (McDonald 34), Fletcher.
Unused subs: Hill (GK), Pearson, Redman, Montgomery, Stewart.
Red card: Jukes (14)
Referee: Lauren Impey