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Rovers u21s 3 Aston Villa u21s 2

12 January 2015

Bradley Bauress scored a late winner, as Rovers Under-21s booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Under-21 Premier League Cup after edging a five-goal thriller at home to Aston Villa.

Connor Mahoney fired Rovers in front on the stroke of half-time, but Jack Grealish equalised with a deflected strike less than a minute into the second half.

Rovers regained their lead through Dean Rittenberg just before the hour mark, only for substitute Jerell Sellars to level the tie once more with his first touch.

However, with just four minutes remaining, Bauress followed up after Rittenberg's header was saved to fire Rovers into the last eight, where they will be away to Newcastle United.

On a positive evening for Eric Kinder's side, Tommy Spurr stepped up his recovery from a groin injury by getting 90 minutes under his belt.

The left-back played just over an hour for the development squad last Monday night at Bolton and has now edged a step closer to full fitness ahead of Saturday's big Championship clash away to Wigan.

Tonight's last 16 tie also saw the return of several loan players, with David Raya, Anthony O'Connor, Jack O'Connell, John O'Sullivan and Jordan Slew all getting a rare run-outs for the Under-21s.

And it was one of those more experienced players who looked lively early on. With less than a minute on the clock, Slew's left-foot shot deflected behind, but the referee only gave a goal kick.

On seven minutes, Rovers should have been in front. A ball over the top found Slew down the left, he cut the ball back to the unmarked Rittenberg in the middle, but he fired straight at Craig Hill, who diverted the ball over the bar.

Rittenberg had a clear sight of goal again on 19 minutes. A ball up to O'Sullivan was headed down to the Rovers forward, who made space for a shot, which was brilliantly blocked by Kevin Toner, who threw his body in the way.

At the other end, Spurr made a superb stop of his own to deny Graham Burke's goal-bound shot, then moments later the Rovers full-back swung over a deep cross from the left and Slew headed marginally over in the middle.  

Rovers went close again on the half-hour mark when Mahoney delivered a corner from the left and O'Connell glanced a header just past the far post.

The hosts were completely in control, Mahoney saw a shot deflect straight into the arms of Hill, before another Mahoney corner from the left was flicked on to O'Connell at the back post, but his close-range shot somehow stayed out.

A minute later, a deep cross from the right found Spurr unmarked at the back post, but his header was palmed around the post by Hill.

Villa twice went close in quick succession, as Riccardo Calder's cross from the left was almost sliced into his own net by O'Connor, but the ball went just past the post, before Burke's near-post shot was well saved by Raya.

Rovers soon regained the ascendancy, as a stunning Bauress volley on the run was blocked by a host of bodies in the box, before David Carson's cross was headed over by Slew in the centre.

As the clock ticked onto the 45-minute mark, Rovers grabbed the goal that their dominance deserved. Spurr's ball into the box was only half cleared as far as Mahoney, who drilled a first-time left-foot shot into the bottom corner.

However, Rovers' lead lasted less than a minute of the restart. The impressive Grealish tried his luck from the edge of the area, the ball deflected off a defender and wrong-footed Raya in the Rovers goal.

Rovers almost regained their advantage three minutes later as O'Sullivan crashed a shot against the crossbar, but the midfielder played a pivotal role in Rovers' second on 57 minutes. O'Sullivan made a good run and pass, slipping in Rittenberg to his right, who finished well.

The visitors made a change on 65 minutes, bringing on Sellars for Burke and the substitute made an immediate impact. Raya tried to dribble his way out of trouble under pressure from Grealish only to play the ball straight to Sellars, who slotted into the empty net with his first touch.

The goal gave the visitors a boost and on 77 minutes, Calum Robinson had two chances in quick succession - a 25-yard free-kick which he fired straight into Raya's arms and then a fancy flick from a right-wing cross which went just past the post.

However, Rovers scored the all-important fifth goal four minutes from time. Carson crossed from the right, Rittenberg's header was superbly saved, but Bauress calmly side-footed the rebound into the top corner.

Villa almost equalised two minutes later, when Sellars crossed from the right, but Grealish headed narrowly over in the centre and Rovers saw the game out to progress through to the next round.

ROVERS: Raya, Nyambe, O'Connor, O'Connell, Spurr, Carson, O'Sullivan, Bauress, Mahoney, Rittenberg, Slew (Preston 67).

Subs not used: Crump, Doyle, Lavelle, Wall.

Goals: Mahoney (45), Rittenberg (57), Bauress (86).

Booked: O'Sullivan, Nyambe, Bauress, Spurr.

ASTON VILLA: Hill, Leggett, Wildin, Cowans, Lewis, Toner, Abdo (O'Brien 87), Calder, Robinson, Burke (Sellars 65), Grealish.

Subs not used: Bannister, Crooks, Webb.

Goals: Grealish (46), Sellars (66).

Booked: Lewis, Calder.

Attendance: 240

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