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26 February 2018 Venue Leyland County Ground Attendance

Kick off 19:00 (UK)

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Match Reports

PL Cup Report: Rovers U23s 0 Southampton U23s 0

Johnson's side progress as group winners in the Premier League Cup.

26 February 2018

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The final game of Rovers' Premier League Cup group ended in stalemate, but there was no shortage of chances for both sides in Southampton's visit to the Lancashire FA HQ in Leyland.

Charlie Albinson was the star of the show, pulling off a number of fine stops throughout, but an inexperienced Rovers side had the best chance, with Lewis Harcastle seeing his penalty saved just a moment before half time.

Rovers were also dealt a couple of injury blows, with Joe Grayson being stretchered off early on in a chilly evening in Leyland.

But the point ensured Rovers progressed to the last 16 stage as group winners, with the evening's opponents also going through after finishing in second place.

Damien Johnson included three Under-16s in his squad, with James Connolly starting, whilst young pair Isaac Whitehall and Sam Burns began the game on the bench.

Two trialist were handed starts, with Johnson running his eye over Alex Wood and Harvey Whyte, who are on the books of Preston North End and Liverpool respectively.

Martin Hunter's Saints invluded the highly rated Callum Slattery in their starting XI, with the midfielder captaining the Hampshire-based side at Leyland.

Just 30 seconds into the proceedings and Grayson's game was over, with the defender stretchered off after an early challenge from a Sants forward, and the set piece expert was replaced by Under-16 starlet Whitehall.

A quiet start saw the first chance of the game not come until the midway point in the half, when Rovers was thankful to Lewis Travis for being in the right place at the right time to hack a visiting attempt off the line after Albinson failed to grab a floated corner.

Soon after and Michael Obafemi forced Albinson into a smart save before firing the rebound wide of the target.

Albinson was again called upon soon after when he superbly denied Will Smallbone with nine minutes to go until half time.

Siph Mdalose was next to go close for the Saints as he saw his header blocked in a half which was shaded by the visitors.

On the stroke of half time, Lewis Mansell was played in by Callum Dolan, and after beating Aaron O'Driscoll with a lovely cut inside, saw his strike easily claimed by Saints stopper Jack Rose.

With injuries to Grayson and Yan Valery in the first half, there was plenty of time added on and after Mansell was brought down in the box, Rovers were given the opportunity to take the lead from the penalty spot.

Skipper Hardcastle stepped up but saw Rose guess right and dive left to deny the hosts from taking any advantage into the break.

Rovers came out the stronger in the second half and a strong tip over from Rose stopped Hardcastle from making amends for his earlier spot kick miss just five minutes into the half.

Just after the hour, a wonderful cross found Nathan Tella at the back post, but Albinson was out quickly to smother the ball and the deadlock was still waiting to be broken.

Albinson was thanking his luck stars on 68 minutes when his kick cannoned off Michael Obafemi and just squirmed wide, to save him from embarassment.

But he redeemed himself just a moment later, superbly denying Tella before grateful grabbing the follow up from the same player.

In the late stages, substitute Tom O'Connor tested Albionson with a strike from range, before Smallbone did the same, both saves comfortable for the Rovers 'keeper.

But that was that as Rovers won the group and progressed alongside the Saints in the Premier League Cup.

Johnson's side are next in action on Saturday 3rd March when they take on Stoke City at the Bet365 Stadium, kick-off 2pm.

Rovers Under-23s: Albinson, Wood, Travis, Connolly (Magloire, 89), Doyle, Grayson, Dolan, Hardcastle (c), Mansell (Burns, 56), Whyte, Simmonds.

Unused substitutes: Magloire, Byrne, Whitehall.

Booked: Simmonds, 45, Travis, 73

Southampton Under-23sRose, Valery (O'Connor, 31), Vokins, Rowthorn, Klarer, O'Driscoll, Mdlalose (Johnson, 59), Slattery (c), Obafemi, Smallbone, Tella.

Unused substitutes: Wood, Latham, Olomola.

Attendance: 185

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