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Rovers u21s 0 Middlesbrough u21s 1

23 February 2015

A young Rovers development squad slipped to a narrow 1-0 loss at the hands of Middlesbrough on Monday night.

In a closely run contest, a second half header from Ryan Brobbel was enough for the visitors to claim all three points at Leigh.

Boro had the better of proceedings in the first half with Mark Kitching, Lewis Maloney and Jonathan Burn all testing Ryan Crump.

But it wasn't until the second half that the deadlock was broken, Brobbel ghosting in at the back post to head home a cross from Thomas McAloon.

The introduction of young forward Lewis Mansell after an hour saw Rovers put some much needed pressure on the visitors but they couldn't fashion any clear-cut openings as Boro held on to claim all three points

It was a quiet opening at a chilly Leigh Sports Village with both sides working hard in and out of possession, but there were little in the way of goalmouth opportunities.

As the first half wore on it was the visitors who started to gain more of an advantage, without ever really putting Rovers under any undue pressure.

Boro forward Mark Kitching had the opening shot at goal on 13 minutes, a first-time strike that Ryan Crump in the Rovers goal saved comfortably at his near post.

Crump then denied Lewis Maloney who fired goalwards with a shot on the run, the stopper claiming the ball at the second attempt.

Middlesbrough should have taken the lead on 35 minutes. A well-worked free-kick routine saw Maloney clip the ball over the wall to find Jonathan Burn, but the Boro captain couldn't capitalise on the space afforded to him and Crump pushed his weak shot aside.

The resulting corner saw Thomas McAloon head goalwards at the back post, Crump again equal to their efforts.

For Rovers, the front three of Dean Rittenberg, Connor Mahoney and Devarn Green kept the visiting defence honest, but without ever carving out a chance in front of goal.

Eric Kinder was forced into a defensive reshuffle at the break as Ryan Nyambe picked up a knock. Mark Edgar coming on as his replacement for his first appearance for the Under-21s.

Rovers were still adjusting at the back when Middlesbrough took full advantage on 52 minutes. McAloon cutting in from the right to cross for Ryan Brobbel who ghosted in behind new right back David Carson to head back across goal and into the far corner.

Another Academy regular was then handed a first outing for the development squad when Lewis Mansell replaced Paulo Jorge on the hour.

The young forward, who has six goals to his name for the Under-18s this season, was immediately in the thick of the action, trying an audacious shot minutes after his introduction with a long-range effort in an attempt to catch the Boro keeper off his line, but his shot was well off target.

Green then very nearly teed up the 17-year-old after a strong run into the box, but his ball to the back post was just an inch or two above Mansell.

Willem Tomlinson became the third Academy player given his debut at this level as he replaced Connor Thomson with 15 minutes to go.

Despite an improved second half showing Brobbel almost grabbed his second of the game on 79 minutes when he looked to take advantage of a heavy first touch from Crump. Thankfully the Rovers' goalie's blushes were spared as his clearance struck the Boro man and rebounded behind.

To their credit the young Rovers continued to push for a way back, but Middlesbrough held strong to claim the victory.

"I'm slightly disappointed because it was a poor goal to give away," coach Eric Kinder told Rovers Player.

"But our philosophy has always been to get young players in the side and tonight, because of injuries to our young players, we've had to put even young players in the side.

"I was delighted with Mansell when he came on, Lewis Hardcastle played 90 minutes for the Academy on Saturday and got another 90 tonight. Tomlinson comes on, Nyambe at right back, these are first year Academy scholars playing against a talented Middlesbrough side.

"I'm pleased that five or six of the young lads have come in and had a go."

ROVERS: Crump, Nyambe (sub Edgar 46 mins), Carson (c), Hardcastle, Jones, Daly, Green, Thomson (sub Tomlinson 75 mins), Rittenberg, Paulo Jorge (sub Mansell 60 mins), Mahoney.

Subs not used: Cham, Fisher.

Goals: None.

Booked: None.

MIDDLESBROUGH: Ripley, Bennett, Fry, Burn (c), Husband (sub Tinkler 62 mins), Maloney, Brobbel, Morris, Fewster (sub Chapman 72 mins), Kitching, McAloon.

Subs not used: Jackson, Morelli, Fryer.

Goals: Brobbel 52 mins.

Booked: None.

Attendance: 245

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