Late drama under the lights saw Rovers U18s run out 3-2 winners in their penultimate game of pre-season at Club Thorne Colliery.
Two goals in the final 10 minutes of the first half from Ethan Harrison saw Chad Gribble’s side ahead at the break but Colliery got two back before a late winner from Alex Fletcher and penalty heroic from Ben Bottomley ensured Rovers took another win in pre-season.
The game saw Rovers feature two trialists and three first-team players in Bottomley, Charlie Seaman and captain for the evening Bobby Faulkner.
Rovers settled quickly in the opening minutes as they looked to build on their impressive performances at Newcastle and minutes into the game, Jack Goodman looked to be picking up where he left off in his previous game but despite seeing his hot in the back of the net, the linesman’s flag was raised to disallow the goal.
The hosts then saw an opportunity arise as the ball presented itself to an attacker from distance but the home side’s first effort at goal comfortably cleared the crossbar to leave Bottomley untroubled for the opening 20 minutes.
Approaching the half hour mark, both sides saw a chance within a minute of each other when Trialist A used his neat footwork to advance deep into the opposing box and took a shot but it glanced across the face of goal before the hosts came forward and looked to open the scoring. Charlie Petch put his body on the line and made a vital block to get in the way of what would have been a certain goal.
However, it would not be long before the deadlock was broken with the breakthrough coming five minutes later.
Rovers won a corner on the right hand side which Tom Parkinson took on and aimed over towards the back post where Bobby Faulkner towered over everyone to direct a header goalward but it fell onto the head of Ethan Harrison and ricocheted into the back of the net to give Gribble’s side the lead.
Entering the final minutes of the half, the visitors ramped up their attacking pressure in a bid to end the first 45 strongly and almost doubled their lead when Trialist A saw another effort roll wide but the second goal was to come minutes later.
A ball played out from the heart of midfield to the left wing found Jak Whiting who advanced up field and fired a cross across goal where Harrison was waiting to smash home and double Rovers’ lead and his goal tally for the evening with the last opportunity of the opening period.
The hosts then came out for the second half looking for a response and in the opening minutes they found it, as a ball from midfield split through the Rovers backline to meet an attacker leaving him one-on-one and with the opportunity to slot past Bottomley and half the deficit with 40 minutes left on the clock.
Rovers looked to restore their two-goal lead and came within inches of doing so when Trialist B took on a freekick from the left and fizzed it across the box but it whiskered wide to go behind for a goal kick as Rovers made their first change of the evening, introducing Alex Fletcher for Charlie Seaman.
Minutes later, however, it would be the home side to find the next goal when a midfielder latched onto a loose ball and fired the ball into the back of the net from long range to beat Bottomley spectacularly to bring Colliery back on level terms.
Gribble then turned to the bench to make more changes seeing Jack Raper and Ethan Harrison make way for Harry Wood and Owen Scattergood as Rovers searched for a winner.
With five minutes left of the match, the impact from bench came when Parkinson used his pace and power to beat his man and enter the box from the left wing to slot a ball into the goal mouth where substitute Alex Fletcher was left unmarked, ready and waiting to tuck the ball away and give Rovers the lead again with minutes to go.
Despite their hard work, it looked as if Rovers attacking pressure would be undone in the final minute when the hosts won a penalty but Bottomley outwitted the home side’s striker to dive left and keep the ball out and clear the danger as the visitors saw out the final knockings of the game and took victory.
Gribble’s side will next face Morecambe at Cantley Park on Friday, July 29.