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Middlesbrough u21s 3 Rovers u21s 1

15 September 2014

Rovers' Under-21s suffered their first defeat of the season as they went down 3-1 to Middlesbrough on Monday night.

A first half brace from Bradley Fewster put the home side in control at the Riverside before Thomas McAloon increased Boro's advantage past the hour mark.

A first Reserve team goal from Sam Joel 16 minutes from time gave Rovers something to chase in the closing stages, but the damage had already been done by their slow start.

Eric Kinder had the rare luxury of naming the same starting eleven that defeated Preston North End last time out, with Connor Mahoney and Hyuga Tanner getting more game time under their belts after recovering from injury.

But the visitors rarely saw the ball as they were blown away by a whirlwind start from Middlesbrough, putting Rovers under a sustained spell of pressure from the start.

Four chances within the first eight minutes indicated Boro's attacking intent. David Raya saving an early free-kick from Lewis Maloney, the resulting corner kick saw defender Jack Doyle clear off the line.

Andy Halliday, who featured four times in a loan spell with Blackpool towards the end of last season, then twice went close. The first a curling effort that went just beyond Raya and the far post, before the Spanish stopper denied the Scot at his nearside.

It was a first ten minutes in which Rovers rarely got out of their half, let alone threatened, a shot from Modou Cham that flashed well wide, their sole effort.

Bradley Fewster and Thomas McAloon linked up well just past the quarter hour, but Raya saved low to his right as England Under-19 international Fewster let fly.

Rovers were then perhaps fortunate to escape a penalty decision as Doyle brought down Bradley Halliday right on the edge of the area, however from the resulting free-kick the home side would take a deserved lead.

As Andy Halliday clipped the free-kick low into the box, forward Fewster ran unchecked to fire home first time from close-range with a simple finish.

As the first half wore on Rovers improved but failed to test Luke Coddington in the Boro goal.

Connor Mahoney saw a shot from outside the box blocked, whilst Dean Rittenberg almost broke through only for defender Jonathan Burn to make an excellent challenge just as the Rovers frontman was about to shoot.

Rittenberg put a difficult left-footed chance high over the bar, but there was nothing difficult about Middlesbrough's second goal.

A cross into the box looked regulation for keeper David Raya, but as he failed to hold, Jonathan Burn poked the ball goalwards and although it struck the post, Fewster was on hand to grab his second of the game.

With a two-goal lead, Middlesbrough weren’t as adventurous with their attacking play at the start of the second half as Rovers grew into the game.

On 57 minutes Mahoney released Cham on the overlap to centre but Sam Lavelle couldn’t keep his header down, then Mahoney’s last involvement in the match was to for force Coddington into his first save of the night with a shot on the turn.

John O’Sullivan then worked the Middlesbrough keeper with a near post shot after a fine run and pass from Lavelle, but Rovers’ defensive frailties came to the fore once more as the hosts grabbed a third soon after.

Kinder's side had ample opportunities to clear their lines as a ball came in from the right, but somehow it reached Thomas McAloon and his low shot went under the legs of Raya and into the back of the net.

The young Rovers did have something to cheer soon after as substitute Sam Joel scored his first goal at Under-21 level.

Playing a neat one-two with O'Sullivan, the forward advanced to shoot from a tight angle, the ball deflecting off Lewis Maloney to find the back of the net on 74 minutes.

Then fellow substitute Jordan Preston saw an effort deflect just wide after he latched onto Dean Rittenberg's pass.

The home side threatened further goals in the closing stages as Raya denied Fewster his hat-trick, whilst subs Mark Kitching and Jordan Jones both went close.

The last save of the night was made by Coddington in the Boro goal, doing well to beat away Preston's well struck shot.

It was a stronger ending to the match from Rovers, but it was to be their slow start proved costly.

The Under-21s are back in action this Friday night when they face Stoke City at Leigh Sports Village.

Season ticket holders can see the match for free on production of their season ticket cards, whilst non-season ticket holders can also gain free admission by registering at www.leighsportsvillage.com/rovers

BORO: Coddington, B. Halliday, Atkinson (c), Burn, Bennett, Maloney, A. Halliday (sub Jones 67 mins), Morris, Fewster, Cooke (sub Kitching 79 mins), McAloon (sub Mondal 72 mins).

Subs: Weledji, Fryer.

Goals: Fewster 18 mins, 42 mins, McAloon 68 mins.

Booked: None.

ROVERS: Raya, Daly, Lenihan, Lavelle, Doyle, Mahoney (sub Carson 60 mins), Tanner (sub Joel 67 mins), Bauress (c), Cham (sub Preston 79 mins), O'Sullivan, Rittenberg.

Subs: Crump (GK), Jorge.

Goals: Joel 74 mins.

Booked: Lenihan.

Attendance: 241

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