Rovers U18s kicked off their 2022/23 Youth Alliance season in thrilling fashion as they netted five times to take victory against Hartlepool United at Cantley Park.
Chad Gribble’s side opened the scoring through Ethan Harrison before braces from Will Green and Jack Goodman saw Rovers in charge. Hartlepool earnt a late consolation as Euan McBride was on target from the penalty spot.
Just two minutes into the game Rovers found themselves in front after early pressure from Goodman forced the visitors into making a short back pass to the keeper as the striker carried on his run forward to snatch the ball and present it to Harrison to turn into the empty net and score the first competitive goal of the season.
The early blitz would not end there. In the fourth minute, Alex Fletcher came forward on the right and passed inside to Sam Brown who beat two midfielders and passed out to the left wing where Green picked up the ball, cut inside, and curled it goalward to bounce off the inside of the post and into the back of the goal to double Rovers’ lead.
The hosts then almost made it a third with their very next attack as Goodman broke the back line and bared down one-on-one but despite having his shot beat the Pools’ keeper, it also beat the far post as it rolled wide.
Rovers then looked to take control of the match and did so, barely affording their opposition an opportunity and continuing to pepper the goal with Harrison just failing to convert a chance shortly before the first water break after half an hour.
Play resumed and minutes before half-time Gribble’s men ended the half in the way they started it by adding a third goal.
Goodman picked up the ball on the edge of the box and dribbled his way around the left of the defence and smashed it at the near post, past the keeper before seeing it hit the crossbar twice then cross the line to put Rovers firmly in control at the interval.
Ten minutes after the break Will Green was denied from adding what looked to be a certain fourth for his side after a great progressive run from Sam Brown saw him receive the ball and take aim but a great last ditch block turned the ball behind from danger.
Rovers U18s manager Gribble then turned to the bench for the first time in the game bringing on Faris Khan and Max Adamson in place of Brown and Harrison respectively.
Adamson made an instant impact from the bench within minutes of his arrival.
The striker won the ball on the left wing, beat his defender and carried it to the goal line where he squared to Goodman who sent a defender and the goalkeeper the wrong way to slot home and get his second and Rovers’ fourth goal of the game.
Another goal soon came in quick succession for the second time in the game.
Freddie Allen carried the ball down the left and played into Will Green on the same flank who was afforded plenty of time by the Pools defence to again cut inside and pick out the very top right of the goal spectacularly to get Rovers fifth and double his goal tally for the day.
Rovers made their remaining changes as Green, Goodman and Jack Raper made way for Owen Scattergood, Justin Bennett and Chris Pooley for the final 15 minutes of the game.
The visitors then looked for a consolation goal in the last ten minutes and were presented with the opportunity to do so when an attacker was deemed to have been fouled in the box and awarded a penalty.
Euan McBride stepped up to take the spot-kick and converted, beating Jake Oram despite the Rovers stopper guessing the right way.
The hosts then saw out the final minutes of the game to make the perfect start in the EFL Youth Alliance League North East and take the three points in their opening game with a dominant display on home soil.
Gribble’s side will now look to build on their impressive opening day display as they turn their attentions to cup football when they are next in action against Blackpool in the EFL Youth Alliance Cup at Cantley Park on Saturday, August 20.