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Aston Villa u21s 2 Rovers u21s 2

30 November 2015

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Rovers' Under-21s had to settle for a share of the spoils as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Aston Villa on Monday night.

Boss Paul Lambert watched on at Villa Park as goals from Lewis Mansell and Scott Wharton gave Rovers a half-time lead.

However the visitors weren't able to hold onto their advantage, Jerell Sellars made it 2-1 just past the hour mark, and three minutes from time the hosts equalised through Libor Kozak.

The result sees the Under-21s stretch their unbeaten run in the league to four games, but they could quite easily have been heading back up the M6 with all three points.

Damien Johnson handed an Under-21 debut for Academy defender Charley Doyle, whilst Sam Joel, back from his loan spell with Bamber Bridge, started only his second match for the development squad.

Whilst Rovers included first teamers David Raya, Darragh Lenihan and Sacha Petshi, the hosts named Czech international Libor Kozak, and former Barcelona youngster Adama Traore in their starting XI.

It was a quiet opening at a wet and windy Villa Park, Rovers passing the ball around confidently, looking a threat on the flanks.

One such foray forward saw a Ryan Nyambe cross only half cleared, the ball came out to Connor Mahoney who struck well but Bradley Watkins in the Villa goal was down early to save.

The home side threatened as a corner from the right reached Kozak at the back post, but at the second attempt he could only find the side-netting.

Moments later Raya was called into action for the first time, a weaving run from Rushian Hepburn-Murphy saw the forward cut inside to shoot from the edge of the box, but the Spaniard was equal to his efforts.

The Villa man tested Raya once more with a near post shot that was saved at the second attempt, but as the half drew to a close, it was Rovers who would suddenly grab the game by the scruff of the neck.

Rovers attacked well as Nyambe, Mahoney, and Joel all exchanged passes before Petshi threaded the ball through to Lewis Mansell who deftly found the back of the net.

It was the 18-year-old's third Under-21 goal this season, his 13th in all competitions.

Devarn Green saw a near post effort pushed behind, and from the resulting corner kick the visitors would double their advantage.

Green sent the ball in from the left and as the home side hesitated captain Scott Wharton turned and struck low through a hosts of bodies and into the back of the net.

The final seconds of the half saw Rovers having to defend their lead, Charley Doyle and Nyambe with important blocks to ensure it was 2-0 at the break.

Needing to find a way back into the match, Villa were straight on the attack as the second half got underway.

Only a goal-line clearance from goalscorer Wharton stopped the home side from doing so as he brilliantly diverted a Hepburn-Murphy effort behind.

Moments later a jinking run from Adama ended with a shot from the edge of the box, the ball was hit with some force but Raya was down well to save.

But just as it looked like Rovers had weathered that early second half storm, the Villans pulled a goal back.

A ball up to the edge of the area saw Kozak get the better of Wharton, but despite Jack Doyle's excellent tackle it ran to Jerell Sellars and he found the bottom corner of the net.

Despite the blow of conceding, Rovers responded well. Green was a whisker away from making it 3-1 when he let fly from outside the area, the ball brushing the side-netting.

Then Joel was denied by a fine save from Watkins when his shot on the turn was tipped behind. The resulting corner saw Wharton connect well but he couldn't get his header on target.

With ten minutes to go only an outstanding save from the Villa keeper prevented Rovers from putting the game to bed. A Green free-kick picked out Wharton once more, his looping header seemed destined for the back of the net only for Watkins to get the merest of touches to tip the ball over the bar.

That save would prove to be crucial as the hosts levelled with just three minutes remaining.

As Adama got the better of Doyle down the right his ball across the area reached Sellars, he hit it to the near post and Kozak headed home to make it 2-2.

Again Rovers didn't lead their heads drop as they ended the game strongly, Mahoney saw a goalbound effort blocked by Kinsella, before a Ryan Nyambe centre couldn't be seized upon after Watkins could only parry.

The result was tough on the young Rovers as they had been more than a match for their more experienced opponents, they can be proud of their performance in what was an entertaining match at Villa Park.

ASTON VILLA: Watkins, Leggett, Kinsella, Lyden (c), Mason, Webb, Adama, Hale (sub Hayes 70 mins), Kozak, Hepburn-Murphy (sub McKirdy 76 mins), Sellars.

Subs not used: Cowans, Sarkic (GK), Suliman.

Goals: Sellars 62 mins, Kozak 87 mins.

Booked: Lyden.

ROVERS: Raya, Nyambe, J. Doyle (sub Carson 87 mins), Lenihan, C. Doyle, Wharton (c), Mahoney, Petshi, Mansell (sub Tomlinson 68 mins), Joel, Green.

Subs not used: Crump (GK), Rankin-Costello, Pemberton.

Goals: Mansell 43 mins, Wharton 45+2.

Booked: Lenihan.

Attendance: 299

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