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AFC Darwen 0 Rovers u23s 5

2 August 2016

Rovers' Under-23s found their goalscoring touch as they defeated AFC Darwen 5-0 at the Anchor Ground on Tuesday night.

Joe Rankin-Costello struck a hat-trick, whilst Jack Doyle and Lewis Mansell got on the scoresheet, to make it a comfortable evening for Damien Johnson's side.

Having worked tirelessly in their 1-0 loss to League Two Notts County on Sunday, eight changes were made from the starting XI at Meadow Lane with just Matty Platt, Jack Doyle and Willem Tomlinson keeping their places. But it was one of those recalled that opened the scoring for Rovers after 14 minutes.

Rankin-Costello set Dean Rittenberg racing into the area, but whilst his shot was saved by Daniel Jackson in the Darwen goal, Rankin-Costello was on hand to foce home the rebound despite the best efforts of the defender on the line.

Six minutes later and Rovers, and Rankin-Costello, were celebrating their second of the game. Rittenberg looked to have been fouled on the edge of the box but as the referee played advantage, the young midfielder found the far top corner with a wonderful strike.

Kristian Evans put a header over the bar when well placed for the Towers, but it was as close as the home side would come in a first half totally dominated by the young Rovers.

The scoreline could have been greater as Rovers saw three strikes ruled out for offside.

Five minutes before the break Rovers finally added a third their play deserved, Rittenberg with the pull back, Doyle arriving to find the corner of the net.

Darwen substitute Ryan Hurst forced a good save from Andy Fisher as the second half got under way, but like the first, play was mainly centred towards the Towers' penalty box.

Joe Grayson went close with a shot that skimmed the roof of the net, before Rankin-Costello struck the post. Then Ryan Nyambe was denied after a fine run with Lewis Mansell unable to force home the rebound.

But six minutes from time Rankin-Costello grabbed the hat-trick goal his play deserved, albeit from the penalty spot.

A sweeping ball out wide from Rittenberg saw Ramirez Howard advance, and as he played in Rankin-Costello, the goalscorer was tripped.

The 17-year-old took the honours himself from the penalty spot, grabbing his third goal of the game with an effort low into the corner.

Mansell then added a fifth goal four minutes from time as he outpaced his marker to fire home, and it was almost six with the last effort of the game, but Rittenberg flashed a shot just over the bar.

The Under-23s complete their pre-season preparations this Friday when they take on Trafford at Shawe View.

ROVERS: Fisher (sub Powell 62 mins), Travis (sub Thomson 62 mins), Platt, Magloire, Askew (sub Mansell 62 mins), Howarth, Rankin-Costello, Grayson, Tomlinson (sub Nyambe 46 mins), Doyle, Rittenberg.

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