Rovers U18s recorded their first victory of 2024 as they saw off Lincoln City in the EFL Youth Alliance League on the Eco-Power Stadium 3G.
Kenneth Imariagbe opened the scoring for the youth team before the break with Sam Straughan-Brown securing the three points with success in second half stoppage time.
The result sees Frank Sinclair’s side climb above the Imps once again and are now just two points behind the championship merit league placings.
The game got off to a cagey start in South Yorkshire and chances in the opening 10 minutes were hard to come by but Rovers managed to find the first shortly after.
Freddie Allen’s ball into Will Green fell into the path of Imariagbe and he carried to the byline before fizzing a ball across the box but there was no man there to meet the forward’s inviting cross.
The theme of the opening minutes would continue though and it would take just as long for the next opening.
Lincoln had their first on the 20 minute mark with a searching freekick just missing the top left corner and then another shot was dragged wide shortly after.
That seemed to be a shift in tempo and chances for both started flying in.
First a Lincoln counter saw their right-winger cut inside and drill at the near post but Oram was down well to hold on that occasion.
A minute later Rovers captain Will Flint switched the play beautifully to find Green on the left and he then cut inside himself to take aim but his shot rose over the crossbar.
The hosts’ first shot on target came moments later when Imariagbe took on numerous men to work inside from the left and tried to curl home with a low shot but the keeper got in the way.
There was then a spell of little chances once again but once Rovers got their next, they made it count.
On 38 minutes good pressure down the right saw the Lincoln backline play a loose ball into the path of Imariagbe and the striker quickly closed in on goal to place past the keeper and give Rovers the lead with the coolest of finishes.
The home side had another chance through a looping Allen header but his effort was held on the line and Rovers’ lead remained at one at the break.
Frank Sinclair made his first change at the interval to bring on Chris Pooley in place of Oliver Piekarski and the youth team set their sights on a second goal.
Within five minutes of the restart they nearly had it when a Rovers corner was headed back across goal by Flint and Allen lashed a shot from 10-yards but it whiskered just over the bar.
Imps striker Bailey Adamson then had three attempts on target within seven minutes of each other but Jake Oram stood firm and held all three with a range of saves on show.
The goalkeeper then set his side on their way forward and at the other end of the pitch, Green found himself one-on-one with Lincoln’s stopper off his line but his attempted lob agonisingly crashed off the crossbar.
The next 25 minutes saw very few clear-cut chances present themselves for either side and the game opened up in midfield as a trialist, Jamie Tomlinson and Jacob Bacon replaced another trialist, Deshaun Musgrave-Dore and Green respectively.
Rovers were forced to soak up heavy Imps pressure during that spell as they looked to hold on to their lead but the backline stood strong and shut the visitors out.
The youth team looked to be seeing the game out but into stoppage time there was time for another goal.
Bacon’s clearance fell to Straughan-Brown who carried forward, came through a strong challenge, carried forward again and then smashed down the middle of the goal to leave the keeper with no chance one-on-one and Rovers had daylight.
The youngsters saw out the remainder of stoppage time to pick up a first clean sheet of 2024 and with it a valuable three points.
Frank Sinclair’s side will now look to build some momentum in the EFL Youth Alliance League off the back of victory as they welcome Notts County to the Eco-Power Stadium 3G on Saturday, January 27 (12pm kick off).