Rovers U18s fell to defeat at the hands of Burton Albion despite putting up a battling performance at St. George’s Park.
Tony Cook’s side travelled to the home of English football off the back of two well fought out wins but a first-half goal from Alex Wolny was not enough to see their winning run extended as the Brewers came from behind to take the spoils.
Midfielder Will Hollings occupied the captain’s armband for the penultimate game of the regular season with usual skipper Dan Wilds still missing through a suspension picked up at Bradford City alongside Michael Nesbitt, while Will Flint missed the game after been sent off at Harrogate.
Goalkeeper Tom Chambers was forced into action after two minutes when a long ball enabled Albion’s attacker to find himself one-on-one and aim low at goal but a great save denied them from taking the lead and the subsequent rebound was put behind for a corner by Rovers’ defence.
Over the next 25 minutes Rovers flirted with the opposition’s goal with attempts from Jack Goodman, Tavonga Kuleya, Hollings and Wolny but all failed to convert with their shots just going wide and others been turned away for corners.
Approaching the half-hour mark Owen Scattergood superbly launched a ball long over to the Rovers’ right wing which Wolny picked up and, after battling with the Brewers’ defender, fired past the goalkeeper’s left-hand side to give the visitors the lead as he turned away towards the corner flag to celebrate scoring his third in as many games with his team-mates.
The hosts immediately looked to get back on level terms and with 10 minutes of the first-half left to play the Brewers had a long range free-kick parried by the Rovers ‘keeper and despite initially saving the rebound from their left-back Max Raine, the save again rebounded in the defenders favour and the ball bounced off his leg and rolled into the goal to restore parity at the break.
Rovers had the best chances of the early exchanges in the second half with shots been blocked and turned away and a shot from winger Kuleya on the edge of the box been saved after some neat footwork on the left wing.
Rovers nearly took the lead again when the ball broke loose in midfield and Hollings latched onto it and shot from range but it again whiskered wide.
Chambers then made a point blank save to keep the scores level but just before the hour mark, Albion’s number 10 won the ball in midfield and managed to dribble through to face Chambers and as the shot stopper was drawn towards the ball, it was squared to Callum Niven to slot in from close range and give the home side the lead.
Shortly after kicking off again, Rovers were forced into making their first substitution of the game as goal scorer Wolny fell victim to a head collision and had to be replaced by U16s forward Max Adamson.
In the last 15 minutes, Rovers introduced Corie Cole and another U16 in Will Green for Josh Lindley and Owen Scattergood respectively as they searched for an equaliser but despite another great save from Chambers and a flurry of attempts in the 10 minutes of added time, the home side took the three points.
The result means Rovers will finish in fifth place in this season’s Youth Alliance League and qualify for the top-half play-off but first Cook’s side will turn their attentions to finishing the regular season strongly at home against Huddersfield Town on Saturday, March 26.