Rovers U18s fell to a late defeat in their last home game of the season at the hands of Grimsby Town despite a strong showing on the 3G pitch at the Eco-Power Stadium.
The U18s found themselves on the front-foot at numerous times in the game having mounted a sustained amount of pressure on the Mariners but a goal in the first minute of stoppage time and a goal-line clearance saw the visitors come away with the spoils.
The result saw Rovers record their first loss in four games as their unbeaten streak came to an end against the Youth Alliance League runners-up.
It took fifteen minutes for the fixture to come alive after a cagey opening period to play as midfielder Corie Cole took the sea of blue shirts in front of him by surprise and played a splitting ball through to Alex Wolny who picked the ball up and shot towards goal, but Town’s ‘keeper reacted well to get down and tip around the post at the bottom-left corner with his feet to keep the deadlock.
Cole found himself at the centre of play again five minutes later when, after success on the left-wing, the ball was played inside and broke loose for the midfielder to switch onto his right foot and take aim at the top-left corner but the Mariners’ number one was able to tip behind for a corner after a superb dive to again prevent his side from falling behind.
The visitors then had chances to take the lead on the counter-attack, first with an attempt from inside the box that Luke Chadwick collected comfortably after the attacker slipped and then minutes later from a one-on-one situation with Town’s forward bearing down on goal but Rovers’ shot-stopper managed to get in the way as his side saw out the danger.
In the last quarter-hour of the half, Rovers saw chances come their way again but without success as Will Hollings had his first-time effort whisker past the bottom left of the goal and Jack Goodman’s connection from a cross on the right-hand side just missed the near-post as the sides entered the break on level terms.
In the second-half, the hosts introduced Owen Scattergood in place of Charlie Petch as Rovers looked for a breakthrough in the game and it almost came immediately when Tom Henson and Hollings linked up well to play a looping ball inside the box to find Goodman who managed to volley goalward but his effort rolled out of play just past the right-hand post.
However, the end-to-end nature of the fixture carried on in the second-period as goalkeeper Chadwick found himself faced with the same Town attacker and made sure there was the same outcome as their previous exchange as he saved well with his feet to turn behind for another corner.
Goodman and Wolny then carried on Rovers’ pursuit of goal but to no avail with their efforts hitting the cross bar and whistling past the face of the goal as the visitors had a headed effort of their own collide with the woodwork before the hosts introduced further substitutes, taking off Cole and Goodman in place Faris Khan and Ethan Harrison respectively, with the latter returning from injury.
The youth team looked to push on and find the winner late on but it was the visitors who found the breakthrough in the first minute of additional time when Aaron Braithwaite latched onto a loose ball on the edge of the box and fired low at goal and past Chadwick to give the Mariners the lead.
Rovers looked to immediately try and salvage a point from the game and they almost got it in the last play of the game with every player, including the keeper, forward when a corner was swung in to the box and found its way to the back post and skipper Dan Wilds who looked to have scored but a last-gasp goal-line clearance from the Mariners’ goal-scorer made sure that the visitors took all three points on their travels as Rovers’ unbeaten record in the merit league came to an end.
The U18s will now aim to find an immediate response to defeat as they turn their attentions to the final league game of their season against Bradford City, at Valley Parade, at 7pm on Monday, May 9.