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Newcastle Utd U21s 0 Rovers U21s 1

20 January 2015

A first half goal from Dean Rittenberg was enough to send Rovers through to the semi-finals of the Under-21 Premier League Cup.

In a dominant display at St. James' Park, Rovers were full value for their victory over a Newcastle United side that had tasted defeat just the once this season.

After an even opening it was Rittenberg who got the final touch to a Jordan Slew shot to fire the visitors in front after 21 minutes.

They should have added further goals before the break as John O'Sullivan and Jack O'Connell both spurned opportunities.

The second half continued in a similar fashion with Rovers creating the better chances. Slew, Rittenberg and David Carson all going close.

With Rovers unable to add a second goal it could have lead to nervy moments in the closing stages, but the Magpies got little joy from an outstanding back four who ensured David Raya in goal was rarely troubled.

The home side's frustrations got the better of them in added time as Olivier Kemen saw red for a second bookable offence, Rovers seeing out the remaining minutes to ensure a place in the last four.

Eric Kinder was able to name an unchanged side for the quarter-final of the competition.

Tommy Spurr was given another runout in his bid to get back to full fitness, whilst David Raya, Anthony O'Connor, Jack O'Connell, John O'Sullivan and Jordan Slew all played once more after returning from their respective loan spells.

At a chilly St. James' Park there was plenty of endeavour shown by both teams as they looked to book a place in the last four of the competition.

It was an even affair in the opening twenty minutes. A dangerous cross from Connor Mahoney had to be put behind by Macauley Gullesphey as Rovers closed in, whilst following good pressure from the home side, Magpies captain Liam Smith fired well wide.

There was little between the two sides but it was Rovers who opened the scoring just before the midway point of the half with a fine team goal.

O'Connor played a ball out of defence with Slew giving chase in the right channel. After getting the better of his man the striker drove towards goal before drilling the ball into the far corner of the net with Dean Rittenberg getting the last touch to force it over the line.

Boosted by their opener Rovers went looking for more, O'Sullivan claiming possession before letting fly, but his 20-yard strike was a whisker over the bar.

The home side looked to hit back as the game went from end-to-end, Raya saving well from a dipping Gael Bigirimana effort, the Spaniard diving to his left to palm the ball around the post.

The Rovers stopper was powerless as the Newcastle midfielder then took a 25-yard free-kick. Raya rooted to the spot as Bigirimana's shot struck the wall and flashed wide.

Eric Kinder's side ended the first half strongly and should have added further goals to their tally before the break.

Slew fired over with a shot on the turn, before O'Connell glanced a Mahoney centre wide of goal. Another flowing move followed, the home side grateful for a block from Callum Williams to deny Mahoney.

The second half followed the pattern of the first with both sides looking to attack at every opportunity.

The best chances were coming Rovers' way, Slew firing just wide with a left-footed shot, before the striker saw a near-post effort kept out by the boots of Magpies goalkeeper Brendan Pearson.

Newcastle pressed and probed, but Rovers defended well, Ryan Nyambe, O'Connell and O'Connor in the right place with timely tackles and blocks.

Injury forced Rovers into the first change of the night with John O'Sullivan limping off, Devarn Green on as his replacement just past the hour mark as chances continued to fall for Rovers. Rittenberg headed straight at Pearson from a Bradley Bauress centre, whilst a Spurr centre saw David Carson's shot deflect over the bar.

Tommy Spurr got more minutes under his belt as he continued his return to full fitness. The defender made way on 83 minutes with Jack Doyle replacing him at left back.

It was only in the final five minutes of the ninety that Newcastle put the Rovers defence under any meaningful pressure.

Anthony O'Connor had to stretch to put a dangerous from Tom Heardman just past his own post, before the Newcastle forward met the resulting corner but couldn't direct his heaer on target.

Then defender Dan Barlaser raced down the right to cross for Heardman but he close-range shot was deflected over the bar.

The Magpies ended the match with ten men as Olivier Kemen picked up his second booking of the match for a late foul on Bauress.

More than five additional minutes were played at St. James Park with Rovers seeing them out comfortably to claim a place in the last four of the competition.

NEWCASTLE: Pearson, Barlaser, Laidler, Kemen, Williams, Gillesphey, Gilliead (sub Heardman 66 mins), Bigirimana, Campbell, Smith (c) (sub Quinn 76 mins), Roberts (sub Broccoli 76 mins).

Subs not used: Atkinson, Harker (GK).

Goals: None.

Booked: Kemen, Bigirimana.

Off: Kemen.

ROVERS: Raya, Nyambe, Spurr (sub Doyle 83 mins), Bauress, O'Connor, O'Connell, O'Sullivan (c) (sub Green 62 mins), Carson, Rittenberg, Slew, Mahoney.

Subs not used: Crump (GK), Lavelle, Preston.

Goals: Rittenberg 21 mins.

Booked: Carson.

Attendance: 590

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