Rovers U18s fell to defeat in their first test of pre-season as they were beaten by United Counties Premier Division North side, Ashby Ivanhoe at the NFU Sports Ground.
Frank Sinclair’s side went ahead twice through a superb Will Green free kick and a Jayden Campbell-Ryce finish but The Knights’ experienced side proved too much in the second half.
In making the trip down to Leicestershire, Rovers U18s made footballing history by becoming the first EFL side to face-off with Ivanhoe.
As the game kicked off, the theme of the meeting immediately came to the fore as a strongly contested battle in the midfield opened up, but it didn’t take long for the youth team to find a breakthrough.
Just nine minutes in, Campbell-Ryce found himself on the end of a late challenge to give Green his first set-piece of the season and the wide man smashed into the top left corner to give Rovers the lead.
The visitors looked for a second goal in the next passages of play but the physical battle resumed and the hosts found a spell of sustained attacking pressure.
In the 17th minute, Ashby came on the counter attack and forced a great save out of Jacob Bryant before the follow-up could only be put wide, but the biggest threat yet would come on the very next attack.
Will Flint and Jacob Bacon combined to turn the ball behind but the resulting corner had to be cleared off the line after an attacker bulleted the ball past Bryant, only for Freddie Allen to head away the danger.
The hosts then attempted to threaten the Rovers goal over the next quarter of an hour and with just under 10 minutes left of the half,
they got their reward as an attacker looped a ball into the back of the net from the left wing.
Kenneth Imariagbe then almost retook the lead immediately with a left-footed shot at the near post only to see it saved, but the first year scholar played a big part in the next attack.
Imariagbe put the ball into the centre of the box and despite it being handled by a defender, Campbell-Ryce had no problem in making use of the advantage and placed the ball into the bottom right corner to retake the lead.
The goal scorer then had another chance just before the break but the Ashby ‘keeper made a fine save and Rovers went into the break ahead.
With the start of the second half came five changes as Imariagbe, Bacon, Green, Kenzie Dillon and Chris Pooley made way for Jamie Tomlinson, Oliver Piekarski, Rhomani Murray, Jaydan Clarke-Thompson and Kasper Williams respectively.
Just five minutes into the half however, Ashby’s first goal scorer made space for himself on the right and fired home at the near post to level the scores once again.
Sam Brown then received a yellow card before being replaced by Finlay Shone and the hosts then took the lead for the first time in the game as the wind caught a free kick and carried it into the net on the 64th minute.
Debutant Campbell-Ryce was then replaced by Deshaun Musgrave but the attacking pressure continued at the Rovers end of the pitch.
Bryant then got down well to keep the deficit to just the one goal in his last action of play as Harry Gardham came on for his first minutes in the team.
With just under ten minutes until full time though, Bryant’s efforts were made in vain as The Knights’ physical target man jumped highest and headed home, off the crossbar, to double the home sides lead.
The youth team then gave their all in the closing exchanges to try and get back on level terms but Ashby’s experienced back line shut out the danger and the hosts took the win.
Rovers U18s now face a quick turnaround to be ready for their second preseason match-up as Frank Sinclair’s side host Chesterfield at the Hoober Homes Elite Performance Centre on Tuesday, July 18.