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West Ham u21s 1 Rovers u21s 1

7 March 2016

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Rovers' development squad missed the chance to record back-to-back league wins after they were held to a 1-1 draw by West Ham United on Monday night.

The match started brightly for Damien Johnson's young side at Rush Green with Anton Forrester firing the visitors in front inside four minutes.

However the Under-21s couldn't build on their advantage and the Hammers drew level on 77 thanks to a converted penalty from Sam Ford.

Two minutes from time Rovers had the chance to claim all three points from the spot themselves, but Forrester saw his effort brilliantly kept out by keeper Raphael Spiegel.

Before the game Johnson made just the one change from the side that had defeated Swansea City 2-0 the previous Monday night, with Andy Fisher replacing Simon Eastwood in goal.

And it was the Rovers who started the match strongly at Romford, their early promise rewarded with the opening goal after just four minutes.

Full back Josh Askew clipped a ball in behind the West Ham defence, and Forrester found the back of the net with a well-taken finish.

The hosts looked to hit back but struggled to gain any advantage against a well-drilled Rovers, and instead it was the Lancastrians who had great opportunities to double their advantage.

Following a free-kick that was put behind, Connor Mahoney sent in the resulting corner from which Scott Wharton headed goalwards only to see his effort clip the corner of post and bar.

Then as Rovers maintained the pressure, and fellow defender Sam Lavelle fired goalwards only to see his shot strike a post.

Although West Ham enjoyed plenty of possession, Fisher's goal was rarely threatened, the young Rovers defending stoutly to keep their more experienced opponents at bay to half-time.

The start of the second half saw the familiar face of Doneil Henry attack a corner kick for United but the Canadian headed wide of goal.

But again it was Rovers carving out the better openings. After a series of corners, Mahoney found himself well placed, but his left-foot shot flashed the wrong side of the upright.

January signing Sam Byram went close for the Hammers with an effort just past the hour mark, but like Mahoney's moments earlier, his strike was inches off target. Then Stephen Hendrie saw his shot across goal go wide for home side.

However the hosts were handed a route back into the match with a 77th minute penalty after David Carson was adjudged to have fouled Grady Diangana in the box.

Forward Sam Ford took the honours and made no mistake from 12-yards to make it 1-1.

But two minutes from time Rovers were given the chance to secure all three points from the penalty spot themselves.

Lewis Hardcastle won the ball in the centre of the park and broke forward, he played a lovely weighted pass for Forrester who was bundled over from behind.

The striker took the penalty himself, but unlike last Monday, the keeper guessed the right way as Spiegel clawed away his shot to ensure the match ended all square.

"I am frustrated not to have won the game, we certainly did enough," said Under-21s head coach Damien Johnson.

"It was a good performance from us, we created much the better chances, we just needed to be that little bit more clinical at times.

"Aside from a five minute spell before half-time Andy Fisher has had very little to do. We contained them well and passed it better in the second half, but we didn't get the second goal and that left us vulnerable.

"We didn't get the win the lads deserved, but all-in-all there were lots of positives and as always plenty to take from it.

"They were a bit more experienced than us, but the boys can be proud of themselves."

ROVERS: Fisher, Travis, Askew, Tomlinson, Lavelle (c), Wharton, Mahoney, Hardcastle, Forrester, Carson (sub Rankin-Costello 90 mins), Thomson.

Subs not used: Platt, Crump (GK), Mansell, Joel.

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