Rovers' Development Squad were defeated in their opening Central League Cup fixture at the hands of an experienced Shrewsbury Town side on Wednesday afternoon in Shropshire.
Lenell John-Lewis opened the scoring with a well-crafted finish from the edge of the area in the opening twenty minutes, as the lead was doubled for the hosts shortly after when Fejiri Okenabirhie jinxed into the area and produced a finish that managed to squeeze inside the near post.
Late on in the contest, the Shrews' forced a late third goal as Lifumpa Mwandwe dispatched home from close range following a deflected shot that bounced around the Rovers penalty area.
In naming his side for the fixture at Montgomery Waters Meadow, Development Squad Manager Chris Hargreaves had a number of academy graduates in his starting XI - as Scott Isherwood and Josh Bailey were included in a back four that also featured Ben Morgan and Alfie Clarke.
Shrewsbury, in turn, named a competitive squad that featured former Rovers midfielder Charlie Colkett, among a string of experienced EFL players in their starting XI.
In the opening exchanges, Rovers had to withstand pressure from the hosts and had goalkeeper Alexis Andre-Jr to thank for keeping the scores level. The shot stopper, who has recently been called up to the Morocco U23’s side, made an early stop from a Lennell John-Lewis effort before making a smart save to push clear a shot from Fejiri Okenabirhie that was hit with a great deal of power from twenty yards.
The hosts did manage to turn their pressure into chances and soon after opened the scoring, as Lenell John-Lewis manufactured a fine finish from twenty yards that flew into the top corner of the goal, with enough power on the strike to leave little chance for Alexis Andre-Jr to make a save.
Shrewsbury continued to pose a threat going forward and continue to ask questions of the Rovers backline. Alexis Andre-Jr was required to make save at the near post to deny John-Lewis from scoring a close header - as Josh Bailey managed to cut out a powerful header from Okenabirhie that looked destined for the bottom corner.
Shrewsbury did manage to add a second goal and again it was another well-placed finish that found its way past Andre-Jr in the Rovers goal. The move hinged on a bursting run in the area by Fejiri Okenabirhie, as the striker completed the move with a drilled finish that saw the effort squash into the net at the near post.
Late in first half Rovers mustered an opportunity to pull a goal back, as Theo Widdrington tested Steve Arnold from long-range, but Shrewsbury goalkeeper was able to watch the ball and push the effort around the post.
Rovers settled in the contest after the break and started to enjoy a more favourable share of possession. Cameron Allen stung the palms of Steve Arnold with a well-struck free-kick, as Cameron Ebbutt almost profited from the rebound at close range.
From the bench, Harry Warwick, Connor Jones and James Spruce were introduced as the game entered the final twenty minutes.
Striker Warwick, who has been in fine form of late for the U18's looked lively and managed to navigate his way into free space on a number of occasions - but Rovers couldn't formulate the final pass or touch in the final third to carve opportunities to test Arnold further.
Late on in the game, Shrewsbury added the security of a third goal, as drilled shot inside the Rovers penalty box took a number of deflections before arriving at the feet of substitute Lifumpa Mwandwe, with striker taking full advantage of the opportunity at close proximity to goal and thundered home a first-time finish.
Rovers have fixtures against Burton and Walsall to come in the Central League Cup – with their next scheduled game being a trip to face Plymouth Argyle in the Central League.
Rovers: Andre Alexis-Jr, Scott Isherwood, Josh Bailey, Ben Morgan, Alfie Clarke, Cameron Hargreaves, Theo Widdrington (66’ Connor Jones), Lewis Leigh-Gilchrist (66’ James Spruce), Cameron Ebbutt, Deon Moore (66’ Harry Warwick), Cameron Allen.