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Rovers u21s 0 Derby County u21s 1

10 August 2015

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Rovers' development squad slipped to a narrow 1-0 home loss to Derby County in their first league game of the campaign.

A close contest between two hardworking teams was settled 16 minutes from time when Rams substitute Ethan Wassall fired home from close-range after Simon Eastwood had failed to hold a corner kick.

It was harsh on Rovers as there had been little between the two sides. Ivan Calero struck the post for the visitors early on, whilst Lewis Hardcastle went close with two first half strikes.

Calero would graze the bar in the second half, before the Spaniard would play a key role in the only goal of the game.

It was his free-kick that deflected off the wall for a corner kick, but Eastwood couldn't claim the inswinger and Wassall pounced.

The visitors ended the match with ten men after Callum Guy was stretchered off, but despite Rovers putting their opponents under pressure in the closing stages, the Rams held on to claim the win.

For the first match of the season Under-21s lead coach Damien Johnson was able to name the experienced Eastwood in his starting eleven, but whilst the rest of the squad was youthful, the majority had enjoyed first team outings this pre-season.

But at a sunny Leigh Sports Village it was the visitors who were a whisker away from opening the scoring after just six minutes.

Good play down the left saw Ivan Calero cut inside to let fly, but the winger was unfortunate to see his shot crash off the post and bounce away to safety.

In a fast-paced and feisty opener, there was no quarter given between the two sides. A Connor Mahoney corner caused the Rams problems with Sam Lavelle seeing his close-range shot blocked for a second set-piece. Mahoney's follow-up inswinger found Scott Wharton but the defender couldn't keep his header down.

The visitors went straight up the other end with an excellent centre from Max Lowe, but Offrande Zanzala was unable to direct his header on target.

On 35 minutes only last-ditch defending stopped Derby from taking the lead. Jack Doyle, Eastwood and Wharton all putting their bodies on the line to somehow keep the ball out.

Despite that spell of pressure it was the Rovers who ended the half in the ascendency.

From Connor Thomson's centre the ball came out to Lewis Hardcastle, but his left-footed strike flashed wide. Before the young midfielder was inches off target with another long-range effort that flashed the wrong side of the post with the keeper at full stretch.

The start of the second half saw both sides go close. On 49 Rovers midfielder David Carson fashioned a shooting chance after good play but was unable to keep his strike down. Whilst at the other end, Derby's Ivan Calero, who hit the post in the first half, skimmed the top of the crossbar with a scooped effort from distance that beat Eastwood.

The match settled down after that pair of opportunities with neither side creating any meaningful openings.

Callum Guy fired over for the Rams, before Anton Forrester's shot on the turn deflected wide.

The visitors made three changes in a short space of time and it was one of those introduced who would finally break the deadlock on 74 minutes.

After Calero had seen his free-kick deflect behind off the wall, Simon Eastwood failed to hold the inswinging corner and County defender Ethan Wassall poked home from six-yards.

An injury to Guy saw the midfielder eventually stretchered off and with the visitors having made all their changes they had to play the final minutes with ten men.

Rovers looked to take advantage to get back on level terms, Forester with the best of the opportunities but his 88th minute shot was straight at keeper Mitchell.

The home side pressed deep into added time at the end of the game but they were unable to force the equaliser their play deserved.

"There wasn't a lot in the game," said Damien Johnson. "But there were a lot of positives to take away from it.

"The goal is just one of those things, Easty has held his hand up at the end. It was probably going to be a draw and then that happens.

"We are disappointed but it is a good learning experience, we can be pleased with a lot of things."

ROVERS: Eastwood, Thomson (sub Rittenberg 90+1 mins), Doyle, Hardcastle, Lavelle (c), Wharton, Mansell, Tomlinson, Forrester, Carson, Mahoney (sub Grayson 75 mins).

Subs not used: Crump (GK), Cham, Wall.

Goals: None.

Booked: None.

DERBY: Mitchell, Santos (sub Tuite 59 mins), Lowe, Guy, Rawson (sub Wassall 65 mins), Koblenz, Vernam, Bunjaku (sub Gordon 71 mins), Zazala, Bennett, Calero.

Subs: Barnes (GK), Bird.

Goals: Wassall 74 mins.

Booked: Gordon.

Attendance: 215

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