WHEN does a blip become a bigger problem?
Brian Flynn spotted some ‘worrying signs’ as Rovers slipped to a second straight defeat against Walsall.
He was not the only one.
The last two games have seen Rovers show an air of complacency, particularly when they are on the back foot.
No longer do they look likely to nod away everything that comes their way and the organisation which has been the foundation this season’s success has been built on has been visibly eroded.
Another goal poorly conceded from a set piece and a second which saw the defence carved open by the impressive Fabian Brandy saw Rovers slump to back-to-back defeats for the first time for only the second time this season.
Several times during this campaign Rovers have been bossed in midfield but those days looked to have passed as the side grew in confidence.
But while they dominated possession for a good hour of the contest, Rovers let Walsall take control over the crucial last 20 minutes.
Pressing the panic button after two defeats would be foolish, but the problems must be quickly addressed.
If was ever to be a blip, best make it a time when the chasing pack cannot fully capitalise.
The fact Rovers can lose two games and still have the opportunity to go three points clear at the top of the table on Tuesday night is a wonderful cushion to have.
As long as they do not get too comfortable on that cushion.
Supporters had barely removed their Rob Jones Day masks when Andy Butler headed Walsall in front after just two minutes, dampening celebrations before they had really begun.
The Saddlers’ skipper was not tracked from Andy Taylor’s free kick from the right and charged in to the near post where he headed home unmarked.
Rovers rallied well from the early setback and were well in control of possession for much of the first half.
But they failed to test Saddlers keeper Ian McLoughlin enough in a mirror of the defeat at Bury.
Paul Quinn again proved to be one of Rovers’ most potent attacking threats and was unlucky not to provide Billy Paynter with the leveller.
The full back found space for a cross but a slight deflection took the ball away from the diving Paynter’s shoulder and instead cannoned off his shoulder out of play.
There was no mistake from Paynter on 16 minutes.
Tommy Spurr’s high ball into the box was headed down by Chris Brown and Paynter nipped in to tap through McLouglin’s legs from close range.
David Cotterill was rightly booked for a blatant dive after charging into the box and dramatically tumbling.
Walsall’s chances were particularly limited but the delivery of full back Taylor proved a constant threat and he sent a couple of free kicks just wide from the edge of the area.
The Saddlers fired another warning shot when Adam Chambers chipped a ball over the top to release Brandy who could only skew his shot on the bounce wide.
Captain Butler twice came to his side’s rescue in quick succession.
Cotterill’s cross seemed destined to be headed in by Paynter at the back post until Butler intervened before he flicked a Coppinger delivery out of the path of Brown after McLoughlin failed to claim.
Rovers’ best chances came just after the break and they really should have capitalised.
Cotterill forced a save from McLoughlin with a free kick from the corner of the box, Brown saw his volley from the rebound driven out and the striker could only produce a tame effort when the ball was sent back in.
James Harper volleyed well wide after the ball dropped to him on the edge of the area and more than a couple of people in the ground thought Brown’s header from a Quinn cross flew past the right side of the post.
But the best chance came on 67 minutes, courtesy of a stunning speculative effort from Cotterill.
The ball sat up nicely for the winger 25 yards out and he drilled a volley which crashed back off the bar out to Jones could only send his reaction header over the bar.
Walsall stepped up in the last 20 minutes, helped by the departure of Paul Keegan with deadleg which left the Rovers midfield a little disjointed.
Gary Woods began a personal battle with Jamie Paterson, saving well twice from low efforts from outside the box.
Kyle Bennett replaced Paynter and immediately had the chance to put Rovers ahead but rushed his strike from a Cotterill cross and scuffed wide.
The catalogue of missed chances was rued when the visitors re-established the lead eight minutes from time.
Brandy took possession 25 yards out, barged past Cotterill and ghosted past Spurr before drilling in from eight yards out.
Cotterill almost drew Rovers level immediately when his free kick from deep evaded everyone and forced a desperate clawing save from McLoughlin.
Walsall soon found a position of comfort, bossing possession in the middle of the park and looking to see out the game in the corners.
They did force Woods into the save of the match in the dying stages when he spectacularly tipped over Taylor’s long range piledriver.
Ultimately, Rovers had little answer once the wind was taken out of their sails.
The blip just became a little bigger but how much more will it grow?