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Rovers u21s 0 Saints u21s 0

13 April 2015

It was honours even at Ewood Park as Rovers and Southampton played out an entertaining goalless draw in the 1st leg of the U21 Premier League Cup final.

In front almost 1000 supporters, the two sides served up a hardworking performance with little between the teams meaning it is all to play for in the 2nd leg at St. Mary's in seven days time.

Against an older and more experienced Southampton side, Rovers gave a good account of themselves and with a bit of luck could have taken a lead into next Monday's re-match.

The Saints also had opportunities, but David Raya, fresh from his senior debut against Leeds just over a week ago, and some excellent defending, kept the Premier League side at bay to set up the winner takes all clash.

Ahead of the game coach Eric Kinder named the same side that had defeated West Bromwich Albion last time out, whilst Southampton had a squad with plenty of first team experience.

Despite that it was an even opening to the game, the two teams exchanged chances early on as a quick free-kick from the visitors saw Ryan Seager's shot easily saved by David Raya. At the other end Connor Mahoney drove into the box to tee up Sam Lavelle for the shot but defender Matt Targett was on hand with an important block.

Both sides showed plenty of endeavour in the opening exchanges in what was a good competitive advert for development football.

In a closely run first half it was Southampton who created the more clear-cut opportunities.

On 29 minutes David Raya was alert to the danger after a Dominic Gape run into the area went unchecked, the Spaniard sliding out bravely to claim the ball at the feet of the midfielder.

Sam Gallagher then mis-hit a shot from the edge of the box before Sam McQueen flashed a first-time effort wide of goal.

Rovers were then dealt a blow as Devarn Green pulled up with a hamstring strain when chasing a Dean Rittenberg through ball, the forward having to be replaced by Lewis Mansell who himself was just back from injury.

Almost immediately Mansell made a nuisance of himself in winning a header in the area, but goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga claimed the high ball under pressure from Rittenberg.

The visitors ended the half looking for the opening goal, but Rovers held strong to ensure parity at the break.

Like the first half, the second saw both sides create opportunities in the opening minutes.

On 51 a Bradley Bauress corner from the right saw the Saints struggle, defender Sam Jones unfortunate not to get a meaningful connection with his header to direct it on target.

Straight down the other end McQueen ran at the Rovers defence but his lef-foot shot was regulation for Raya.

Mahoney impressed with a run down the left and although his centre picked out Mansell, Connor Thomson was adjudged to have handled in the area as he was about to take aim.

Moments later Mahoney again had the beating of his man but his centre was just inches out of reach of a diving Mansell.

Southampton striker Seager spurned a great chance to open the scoring on 72 minutes after Raya missed McQueen's corner, but the forward put his close-range header a yard over the bar.

Two minutes later it was Rovers' chance in front of goal as Thomson and Jack Doyle combined but David Carson was denied by a brilliant block from Will Wood.

The Saints had the last opportunity to take a slender lead into next week's second leg a minute shy of the 90, but as the ball broke to substitute Jake Sinclair on the edge of the box, Raya once again showed good hands in claiming the shot.

Rovers showed true battling qualities in the remaining minutes to ensure it is all to play for in next Monday's second leg at St. Mary's.

ROVERS: Raya, Nyambe, Doyle, Thomson, Lavelle, Jones, Green (sub Mansell 38 mins), Bauress, Rittenberg (sub Joel 90+4 mins), Carson (c), Mahoney.

Subs not used: Daly, Crump, Tanner.

Goals: None.

Booked: Jones, Bauress.

SAINTS: Gazzaniga, Mugabi, Targett, Gape, McCarthy (c), Wood, Gallagher (sub Sims 81 mins), Reed, Seager, Hesketh, McQueen (sub Sinclair 81 mins).

Subs not used: Britt, Slattery, Debayo.

Goals: None.

Booked: McCarthy, Reed.

Attendance: 995

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