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Rovers u18s 1 Stoke City u18s 2

11 May 2015

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Rovers' Under-18s ended their league season with a first loss in eight as they went down 2-1 at home to Stoke City.

A poor first half showing saw the Potters deservedly in front at the break, and whilst Stuart Callaway levelled five minutes into the second half, the visitors claimed the win and in the process leap-frogged Rovers to win the Tier 3 play-off group.

Stoke set the tone from the off with a host of early chances. Andrew Fisher saving well from Yusuf Coban after just five minutes, whilst Johnville Pringle fired wide when well placed soon afterwards.

Ramirez Howarth was off target with a snapshot for Rovers, but it was the visitors who continued to create the better opportunities. Liam Smith saw a shot deflected past the post, before more fine goalkeeping from Fisher kept a Coban effort out at his near post.

On 35 minutes the deadlock was finally broken with Stoke getting the goal their play merited. A strong run along the edge of the area from Charles Weston-Hayles saw the forward tee up Oliver Roberts and the Potters captain hit a superb shot into the top corner to ensure they lead at the break.

Brian Carey made a double change at half-time, introducing Lewis Mansell and Lewis Hardcastle, who had both played for the Under-21s 48 hours earlier, and it had the desired effect.

Sam Joel was wide seconds after the restart before Stuart Callaway was just over with a back post header.

However it didn't take Rovers long to get back on level terms. On 51 a ball into the area from Jan Pirretas found Callaway and he steered it into the corner of the net.

The leveller opened the game up with both sides looking to take the lead, Callaway headed over a Hardcastle cross, whilst Fisher again impressed in goal to deny Stoke substitute Jake Dunwoody.

But it was the visitors who grabbed the all-important next goal to get their noses back in front on 72. Weston-Hayles again the provider as he squared for Daniel Jarvis and the midfielder slotted home.

Rovers pressed Stoke back in the closing stages, substitute Willem Tomlinson volleying over a Hardcastle corner, whilst Mansell was narrowly wide from a Scott Wharton through ball.

Everyone was up for a free-kick deep into added time, but defender Matty Platt was wide with a header from Hardcastle's free-kick.

"Stoke were a lot stronger than us to be honest, and we couldn't really cope in the first half," said Carey.

"We changed things around in the second half and went stronger with a couple of the lads who had played for the Under-21s on Thursday, and we did well to get back on level terms.

"But we just ran out of steam at the end, we just lacked that little bit of quality when it mattered.

"The lads are a little bit disappointed not to finish top of their group, but that is not the objective, they are here to try and progress and to get up to the Under-21s and ultimately the first team.

"Overall we are pleased with how they have done since Christmas, they've had a fantastic run, it was just a shame they couldn't end the season with a victory."

ROVERS: Fisher, Pirretas, Askew, Joel, Platt, Wharton, Pemberton (sub Hardcastle 46 mins), Grayson (sub Tomlinson 61 mins), Mehew (sub Mansell 46 mins), Howarth, Callaway.

Subs not used: Hendry, Ascroft.

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