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Arsenal U21s 3 Rovers U21s 2

5 January 2016

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Rovers' Under-21s slipped to a narrow 3-2 loss at the hands of Arsenal on Tuesday afternoon.

The Gunners raced into a three-goal lead, but great resolve from the young Rovers saw Lewis Mansell score twice to set up a storming finish, but they just ran out of time to claim something from the match.

Rovers were in action for the first time in almost a month and it showed as they started sloppily at London Colney. The home side taking the lead inside six minutes when Jeff Reine-Adelaide capitalised on a loose ball in the box to fire home.

Against an Arsenal outfit that featured Mikel Arteta, Damien Johnson's side struggled early on. The Gunners striking the woodwork as they looked to double their advantage.

But to their credit Rovers grew into the game, Dean Rittenberg unlucky to see his effort come off the post after good work down the right.

Rovers continued to show well into the second half, but two goals in the space of four minutes put them well and truly on the back foot.

Donyell Malen doubled the home side's advantage after Reine-Adelaide effort had been saved by Ryan Crump, before Malen set up Reine-Adelaide for his second and Arsenal's third soon afterwards.

The Blue and Whites have shown excellent battling qualities this season and they came to the fore once more as Lewis Mansell reduced the deficit on 65 minutes.

The young striker latched onto a Ryan Nyambe centre to fire goalwards acrobatically, but although Ryan Huddart saved the initial shot, he could do nothing about the rebound as Mansell slotted home.

Ten minutes later and the 18-year-old forward was celebrating his second of the game. Good movement from the Mansell saw Connor Thomson play him through and he cooly slotted home for his sixth Under-21 goal this season to make it 16 in all competitions.

That set up a grandstand finish with Rovers eager to grab an equaliser that their play deserved. But despite Mansell a couple of further opportunities, the Lancashire club weren't able to make the most of them as they tasted defeat in the league for the first time since September.

"We didn't start well, we looked like a side that hadn't played in four weeks," said Under-21s boss Damien Johnson.

"We ended the first half strongly and started the second the same way but we conceded two poor goals. But we showed a lot of character and belief and really stuck to our task, playing some good stuff.

"Lewis Mansell scored two good goals and he could have had a hat-trick but we just ran out of time.

"We are disappointed to lose but it was good experience to play against the likes of Mikel Arteta. Ryan Nyambe had an excellent game at right back, whilst I was pleased with 16-year-old Joe Rankin-Costello who really grew into the game in the centre of midfield on his first start for the Under-21s.

"So despite the result there are still a load of positives, but plenty for them to learn from and work with."

ARSENAL: Huddart, Sheaf, Robinson, Iwobi (sub Mavididi 79 mins), Bielik, Pleguezuelo (c), Crowley, Arteta (sub Bennacer 46 mins), Malen, Reine-Adelaide (sub Moore 71 mins), Willock.

Subs not used: Keto, Bola.

Goals: Reine-Adelaide 6, 62 mins, Malen 58 mins.

Booked: None

ROVERS: Crump, Nyambe, Carson, Tomlinson, Lavelle (c), Wharton, Green, Rankin-Costello, Mansell, Thomson, Rittenberg (sub Joel 62 mins).

Subs not used: C. Doyle, Fisher (GK), Tanner, Cham.

Goals: Mansell 65, 75 mins.

Booked: Rankin-Costello.

Attendance: N/A

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