Rovers U18s are now 10 games into their 2022/23 Youth Alliance League campaign and are sat in fifth place with two cup competitions still to play for, so ahead of their return to action this month, here’s a recap of the first half of the season.
NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER:
LINCOLN U18s 2 ROVERS U18s 3
After a return home at the end of October, the youth team made a third trip into Lincolnshire in just over a month to face Lincoln City, this time in EFL Youth Alliance League action knowing a win would take them back to the summit.
Jack Goodman started the game in the same fashion as the previous meeting as he took the lead from the penalty spot, only to see the same response from the hosts as they converted a penalty of their own just four minutes later.
It took until the final 15 minutes for the next goal to come and it came Rovers' way as Goodman put his side ahead again but once again, the hosts replied four minutes later. Rovers wouldn’t accept a share of the spoils though and pulled off a great team move through Faris Khan to get a late winner that would later be crowned the League Football Education Goal of the Month for November.
MANSFIELD U18s 2 ROVERS U18s 0
Up next was a trip into Nottinghamshire to face off with Mansfield Town at the One Call Stadium looking to secure their place at the top of the league.
A cagey opening half played out with talisman Goodman coming the closest to opening the scoring but his header was saved by the keeper and the deadlock remained at the interval.
Rovers nearly took the lead through the number nine on the 65th minute but it was the host who made the breakthrough just 60 seconds later before doubling their lead ten minutes later spectacularly.
Goodman then had an effort come back off the crossbar but the Stags had done the business already to take the three points.
SCUNTHORPE U18s 7 ROVERS U18s 2
The final game of November saw yet another trip away as Rovers travelled down the M180 to take on Scunthorpe United and end the month without a game at home.
The hosts started strongly to go two goals up after half an hour before Goodman got his side back in the game with a converted penalty. The striker immediately had another disallowed for offside to equalise as the hosts went up the other end and made it 3-1 at half-time.
The Iron got another two before Goodman got his second of the game to make it 5-2 before the home side added another two to complete a convincing win in challenging conditions.
BARNSLEY U18s 1 ROVERS U18s 2
Looking to bounce back from a disappointing day at the office, the youth team travelled to Barnsley to start the month of December in a group-deciding game in the Professional Development League Cup.
Owen Scattergood fired an effort off the crossbar early on as Rovers tried to get the upper hand but the opening goal wouldn’t come until the second-half. On the 64th minute, leading goal scorer Goodman worked his way into space to place home from a matter of yards out and take the lead, but it would be short-lived as Barnsley converted a set-piece routine.
Knowing only the three points would be enough for qualification form the group stage, Sinclair's side pushed on and with 15 minutes to go, Goodman popped up in the box to slide the ball past the goalkeeper to take the lead again. This time it would be enough to secure the win and first place in Group C to set up a quarter-final tie with Peterborough United at Hoober Homes Elite Performance Centre.
ROVERS U18s 0 SHREWSBURY U18s 1
The last game of the first half of the season would bring Rovers home for an EFL Youth Alliance League Cup fixture and the visit of Shrewsbury Town, albeit two days later than planned on the 3G pitch at the Eco-Power Stadium.
The first-half played out the same theme as the previous two fixtures with a tightly contested affair that saw the teams in deadlock at the break and the only goal of the game didn’t come until the final few minutes.
Despite Rovers’ defensive work throughout the game, the ball broke on the edge of the box for a Shrewsbury midfielder and he made no mistake with his strike as it nestled in the back of the net to steal the points at the death and inflict defeat on the youth team in their final game of 2022.
After 10 league games, Rovers U18s found themselves in fifth place at Christmas, just four points off the top with plenty of games of the regular season left to play, including five against the four teams placed above them.
Rovers return to action on Tuesday January 10 at Accrington Stanley in the Youth Alliance Cup at 11.30am.
RECORD SO FAR: Played 17, won eight, drawn two, lost seven.
TOP GOALSCORER: Jack Goodman (13)