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Report: Blackpool 1 Rovers 1

23 July 2016

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Ben Marshall equalised on the stroke of half-time, as Rovers maintained their unbeaten record in pre-season with a 1-1 draw at Blackpool.

The 25-year-old collected Jack Byrne's precise pass out left, before breaking into the box, beating his marker and firing a deflected shot past Sam Slocombe.

Owen Coyle's side had earlier fallen behind for the first time this pre-season when Kyle Vassell's left-foot shot went in off Shane Duffy on his return to the Rovers team.

Rovers twice went close to winning it after the break, as both Duffy and Danny Graham headed inches over the bar, but the visitors were forced to settle for a share of the spoils.

Ahead of the game, Duffy was named on the teamsheet for the first time this pre-season following his involvement at Euro 2016. 

The 24-year-old defender featured twice for the Republic of Ireland at the tournament in France and only returned to Rovers' Senior Training Centre on Monday.

Duffy partnered Elliott Ward at the back, with Jason Lowe and Adam Henley operating at full-back and Jason Steele in goal.

Danny Guthrie and Byrne got the nod to start in the centre of midfield, with wingers Liam Feeney and Marshall providing support for Anthony Stokes and Graham up front.

Corry Evans, who starred for Northern Ireland at the Euros, was also back in the squad, taking up a place on the bench, where he was joined by former Rovers defender Gordon Greer, who has returned to the club on trial.

The 35-year-old central defender, who was released by Brighton this summer, spent two seasons with Rovers towards the start of his career, making just one appearance in the League Cup, before joining Kilmarnock in 2003.

Fellow trialist Faissal El Bakhtaoui was also amongst the 10 substitutes.

Rovers started well and had the game's first chance on five minutes when Marshall cut in from the left, but he curled his shot high over the bar from 25 yards out. 

However, less than a minute later and Blackpool came close to opening the scoring. Danny Philliskirk got in behind the Rovers defence down the right and his crisp strike was superbly tipped onto the near post by Steele.

Blackpool threatened again on 16 minutes when Brad Potts let fly from 25 yards out, but his swerving shot sailed inches over Steele's bar.

Rovers didn't heed the warning and the hosts broke the deadlock three minutes later. Vassell got the better of Ward, spinning the Rovers defender before breaking into the box and his attempted left-foot curler deflected off Duffy and wrong-footed Steele.

It was the first time that Rovers had fallen behind this pre-season.

Buoyed by the goal, the Seasiders pushed forward again moments later, with Philliskirk trying his luck from outside the area. Again the shot took a deflection, this time off Ward, but the ball looped harmlessly over the bar.

Blackpool went close again five minutes before the break when Danny Pugh delivered a corner from the right and Tom Aldred headed wide at the back post.

However, Rovers drew level on the stroke of half-time. Byrne played a clever volleyed pass out wide to Marshall, who drove into the box and skipped past his marker, before seeing his drilled left-foot shot deflect past Blackpool keeper Slocombe. 

Rovers made four changes at the break and switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation. Greer, Darragh Lenihan, Hope Akpan and Elliott Bennett were all introduced, with Ward, Guthrie, Byrne and Stokes the players to make way.

The tactical switch almost brought an early reward as, on 52 minutes, Marshall burst forward and looked to play in Graham, but he just couldn't take the ball in his stride.

Straight down the other end, Vassell got the better of Duffy and advanced into the area, but Lowe got across to make a brilliant block. From the resulting corner, the ball dropped to Daniel, but Duffy threw his body in the way to deflect the ball behind. 

From the subsequent set-play, Rovers broke quickly down the other end and Graham found himself one-on-one with the last defender. He ignored Feeney in space to his right and instead opted to go it alone, before laying the ball back to Akpan, who blazes a left-foot shot high over the bar.

Lenihan found himself in a similar shooting position on 59 minutes, after being teed up by Feeney, but he dragged his shot wide of Slocombe's right-hand post.

Blackpool changed their entire outfield just past the hour mark, before switching goalkeepers on 71 minutes.

Rovers came close to taking the lead on 76 minutes when Feeney's corner from the left was met in the middle by Duffy, but the Irishman's towering header went just over the bar.

It would prove to be the duo's last involvement, as Rovers made a triple change, with Duffy, Henley and Feeney replaced by Scott Wharton, Jack Doyle and Evans.

Rovers went close again on 82 minutes when Bennett broke down the right, got to the byline and stood up a cross to the back post, but Graham headed inches over the bar.

The Rovers striker had scored in each of his three previous appearances this pre-season, but was unable to find the back of the net on this occasion, as Coyle's side were forced to settle for a draw.

BLACKPOOL: Slocombe, Mellor, McAlister, Aimson, Vassell, Potts, Aldred, Philliskirk, Pugh, Daniel, Trialist.
Subs: Boney, Herron, Yeates, Wilson, Osayi-Samuel, Richards, Roache, Trialist, Trialist, Trialist.

Goal: Vassell (19).

ROVERS: Steele, Lowe, Duffy (Wharton 76), Ward (Greer 46), Henley (Doyle 76), Feeney (Evans 76), Guthrie (Lenihan 46), Byrne (Akpan 46), Marshall, Stokes (Bennett 46), Graham.
Subs: Raya, O'Sullivan, El Bakhtaoui.

Goal: Marshall (44).

Attendance: 2,657 (1,503 Rovers)

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