For Rovers, this was just as much about the 11 players who were unavailable, as those that were.

Whether it be for Covid-related issues, injury, personal reasons, or owing to the time of their arrivals, 11 players were absent who together would have given the side that was fielded a run for their money.

All the promise from a frantic deadline day, in which Rovers did some exciting and eye-catching business, failed to transcend onto the pitch.

Rovers didn’t settle, they looked disjointed, and as Tony Mowbray suggested, a side that had been thrown together. Passes went astray, players were caught in possession, but that owed as much to the movement ahead of them as it.

It all felt a little safe.

Balance is one of the key qualities and characteristics Mowbray looks for most, but one that escaped them here.  The midfield has been the shining light this season, but with Holtby and Rothwell unavailable, and Johnson a shadow of the player that saw him win the Championship’s player of the month award for September, it proved to be the biggest disappointment.

Corry Evans, like Darragh Lenihan behind him, didn’t look comfortable playing on the left-hand side of their respective combinations, and with Ben Brereton ahead of them also not a natural left-sider, it simply added to the imbalance.

John Buckley tried to be a point of difference but found the pace of the game too much before his withdrawal, despite a promising start.

All the talk after the window closed was about the depth of options that Rovers now have, and you could make a strong case for this being the strongest squad assembled since relegation from the Premier League.

But how much they would have loved for just a sprinkling of those names available here.

Luke Brennan hadn’t even got a squad number on Thursday, two days later he was coming on for his senior debut as Rovers went in search of a late equaliser. Brad Lyons was 19th man, while Sam Gallagher aside, the oldest player on the bench was Scott Wharton at 22, Hayden Carter having the most league starts for the club with two.

As the game wore on, it became increasingly apparent that this wasn’t to be Rovers’ day, and that taking a point and moving on was the best they could hope for.

Nottingham Forest, under new management and still awaiting their first win of the campaign going into the game, sensed their chance as they turned up the pressure late on.

Sammy Ameobi forced a smart save out of Thomas Kaminski at his near post, while the Belgian keeper did well to keep his eye on a Lyle Taylor shot for long enough not to be deceived by the swerve.

When Ameobi was denied by the outside of the post, it felt like that would be the biggest scare of the day for Rovers, all three of those efforts coming in the final minute.

But there was to be one final sting in the tail. Joe Lolley and Lewis Grabban had scored five of Forest’s last six goals against Rovers, and after the latter had been withdrawn, it was left to the former to steal the headlines.

Rovers were within seconds of a second consecutive home stalemate, following on from the goalless draw with Cardiff City heading into the break, but positively, a fourth consecutive clean sheet, something they hadn’t achieved since the final throws of the 2004/05 campaign.

But no sooner had that statistic been dug out, it was consigned to the history books as Lolley took aim, his shot getting a big deflection on the way through, and the celebrations started before the ball had found the back of the net, so wrong-footed was Kaminski.

And that was that. Only a third home defeat in 20 Championship fixtures for Rovers, but a second consecutive Ewood game without a goal, a surprise given they had plundered 11 goals in their three matches heading into the home double-header.

While it’s hard to look too much into that given the personnel that were unavailable, Rovers will want to avoid the trait were they struggle to break sides down who show them the respect that early season form deserved by putting bodies behind the ball and make Rovers do the running.

Not all sides will give the likes of Adam Armstrong the space he craves to run in to, Tyrhys Dolan won’t always be given licence to run at his full back at will, and without Rothwell, Holtby, or even Bradley Dack, that creative force in behind them just wasn’t there.

The game looked 0-0 from a long way out, and would have been were it not for a piece of fortune.

Grabban’s attempt from almost the halfway line to catch Kaminski off his line with a shot that sailed 15 yards wide, and never left the floor, somewhat summed up the attacking play.

It will take more than a drab home defeat to dampen the optimism of the summer window, and rightly so. But equally, it’s created an expectation that Rovers will need to live up to, and the opposition will recognise.

The starting XI: Kaminski, Nyambe, Ayala, Lenihan, Bell, Evans, Johnson, Buckley, Dolan, Armstrong, Brereton

The absent XI: Pears, Bennett, Rankin-Costello, Williams, Douglas, Trybull, Holtby, Rothwell, Dack, Elliott, Butterworth