Rovers U23s finished 2019 with a win as they beat Walsall FC 3-2 in the Central Development League.
A first half header from Joe Wright followed by second half goals from Branden Horton and Trialist put Rovers 3-0 up. The visitors did mount a late comeback scoring twice in quick succession, but Rovers held out to claim the win.
Walsall carved out the first opportunity of the afternoon but Joe Willis scooped over from close range. However after the initial scare, Rovers settled into the game, got to grips with the blustering wind, and began to dominate more of the ball.
Max Watters was the first to hit the target with his effort earning a good save from Jack Rose and Shane Blaney’s free kick forced another good stop from the Walsall keeper.
Watters had another shot blocked and then saw his follow up – a wonderfully weighted chip over the keeper – fall just short of its intended target. He miscued another effort and sent it bobbling towards the corner - despite almost being wrong-footed Rose managed to get across to save.
Joe Wright opened the scoring with about ten minutes remaining in the half. Walsall conceded a free kick on the edge of their own box. AJ Greaves sent an excellent ball into the box and Wright only needed the slightest of touches to take it beyond Rose.
Niall Ennis - who was playing his first 45 minutes of football since returning from injury -almost made it two just before the break, but his effort was just over the bar.
Much like in the first half, Walsall were the ones who struck first and it was Willis with the early chances again. Twice he hit the target, twice Louis Jones made the save.
Branden Horton doubled Rovers lead mid-way through the half. He made a powerful run down the left and found himself almost at the byline when he unleashed a rocket of a shot across the keeper and into the far corner.
Trialist extended the lead soon after. Also finding joy down the left-hand side, he picked the ball up just outside the box, took the ball around three defenders to open up a shooting chance – his shot was across the keeper to nestle just inside the far post.
After the third goal, Walsall began to have more of a say in the match. Willis fired a thunderbolt effort from Rovers right-hand side forcing Jones into a sharp stop – the follow up was bundled in by Luke Pearce but the referee said the striker had used his hand.
Moments later, Pearce had the ball in the net for a second time but, for a second time, the referee deemed that he’d used his hand and booked him for his troubles.
Alex McSkeane did register a goal for his side with around 10 minutes of the match remaining. A breakdown from a Rovers corner saw the striker break away from the defence and slot the ball beyond Jones. Minutes later, Pearce put the ball in the net for the third time (this time with his foot) and doubled the visitors’ goal tally.
It could have been a nervy end to the match, but Rovers U23s regained their composure and saw out the remaining minutes of the game with relative ease.