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REPORT | Rovers U18s 2 Bradford U18s 1

27 February 2023

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Rovers U18s took a last gasp victory against table toppers Bradford City as they made it three consecutive wins at the Hoober Homes Elite Performance Centre.

Captain Jak Whiting opened the scoring for Rovers just after the break before first-year scholar Freddie Allen turned in a stoppage-time winner to put the earlier equaliser in vain.

The result sees Rovers return to the top five in the EFL Youth Alliance League and sit in a very healthy position - just six points off top and with games in hand on the teams above them.

The Bantams got play underway at Cantley Park and Rovers immediately looked to get a hold on the ball to find an opening but the first chance came the way of the visitors.

Bradford managed to get down the right wing and cross the ball in but as the ball sat up on the penalty spot for an attacker, he could only blaze a shot over and the deadlock still in place.

Rovers enjoyed a number of good spells with the ball before their first clear cut chance fell to Sam Brown, and although his shot looked on its way in from range, the visitors ‘keeper got across well and tipped behind for a corner.

In the very next passage of play, City’s stopper looked to have been beaten when Will Green swung a cross towards the back post and Allen tried to direct a header in, but the ball looped over the crossbar.

That was the start of a sustained 20 minute spell of attacking pressure from Rovers that saw them get into a number of great positions but, with the final ball missing, the game entered the interval goalless.

Faris Khan then restarted the game after the half time break and on the 47th minute, Rovers won a freekick halfway through the Bantams half.

Allen stepped up to take it and floated the ball into the box for it to fall for skipper Whiting to steer goalwards and despite the goalkeeper’s attempt to make the save, the ball found its way into the roof of the net and the defender’s first goal of the season put Rovers ahead in the Yorkshire derby.

Harry Wood, 10 minutes later, made way for Josh Lindley, but just as Rovers looked to be gearing up to extend their lead, Bradford converted a set piece with a thumping header at the back stick and the game was level again with 58 minutes on the clock.

In Rovers’ very first attack after the restart they nearly got back ahead immediately but top scorer Jack Goodman’s dinked effort rolled across the face of goal and went wide.

Another three minutes later, the hosts found themselves with another opportunity to restore their lead on the counter attack when Khan picked the ball up on the left, cut inside and tried to pick out the near bottom corner only to see his effort whisker wide.

Frank Sinclair’s side then continued to look for a second breakthrough but with the scores level on the 76th minute, Owen Scattergood replaced Sam Brown in an attacking change.

The youth team then flirted with the opposition goal numerous times and into stoppage time the goal they wanted looked to have come.

The ball bounced around at the back before Scattergood managed to pick it up and take a shot on but as it looked to be curling right into the top corner, City’s number one pulled out a great diving save to turn behind and it looked like that was going to be Rovers last opportunity.

However, there was time for one more from the resulting corner.

Green swung a corner in deep and, although the box looked crowded, Allen flew in to connect with his head and power the ball in beyond the keeper to net the first goal of his scholarship and in turn give his side a late lead with a matter of seconds left on the clock.

Looking to close those last seconds out, defender Kasper Williams came on for Will Green and Rovers did go on to see out those last knockings to claim a big three points in their quest for league success this season.

Rovers U18s will now look to carry forward their momentum gained as they leave the comforts of league football at Cantley Park for the first time in 2023 to travel to Hartlepool United in the EFL Youth Alliance League on Tuesday, February 28.

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