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Development Squad

PL2 Report: Rovers 2 West Brom 1

10 April 2017

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Anthony Stokes scored twice to help Rovers' development squad to a 2-1 win over West Bromwich Albion at Ewood Park.

The Republic of Ireland international marked his return to match action with a second half brace as Damien Johnson's side deservedly claimed all three points.

Stokes twice went close to opening his account in the first half, before Willem Tomlinson saw a smart effort kept out and Daniel Butterworth crashed a shot against the crossbar.

But two goals either side of the hour mark saw the home side finally get what their endeavours deserved. Stokes curling home the opener on 57 minutes, before diverting a Butterworth effort into the back of the net soon after.

Rovers pressed for further goals in the closing stages, but it was Albion with a consolation strike three minutes from time through Callum Morton.

Damien Johnson was able to call upon first-teamers Stokes, Elliott Ward and David Raya for the match at Ewood, and it took just three minutes for Stokes to make an impression.

Advancing in from the left the Irishman let fly with a right-footed shot across the box, but the ball flashed just wide of the far post.

It was then the turn of one of the visiting players with first team experience to make an impression. Jonathan Leko with a burst of speed that saw him clear of the Rovers back line down the right, but defender Lewis Travis was back in time to divert his square ball behind as Rekeem Harper closed in.

But as the half wore on it was Rovers who started to take charge, the 3-4-3 formation allowing the home side to get a grip on proceedings.

On 23 minutes a lovely spell of passing resulted in Stokes letting fly, but Alex Palmer in the Albion goal parried the shot.

Then as Rovers maintained the pressure, Tomlinson smashed an effort goalwards, but Palmer pulled off a superb one-handed save to his right.

Tomlinson and Stokes then combined to good effect inside the area but the striker bent his effort just wide. But the best chance of the half came a minute before the break when following a fantastic run from Tomlinson, Stokes teed up fellow forward Butterworth but he saw his well-struck shot crash down off the crossbar and away.

The start of the second half saw Rovers continue to press the visitors back. Yet more impressive play from Tomlinson saw the midfielder find Connor Thomson on the right, and although he picked out Stokes with his cross, Palmer again denied the frontman.

But the Albion stopper would have no answer soon after as Rovers grabbed a 57th opener. Joe Rankin-Costello made full use of the space in front of him before slipping the ball through to Stokes who cooly curled the ball into the far corner of the net.

West Brom threatened briefly as Sam Field hooked a speculative effort over the crossbar, but it didn't take Rovers long to add their second.

Rankin-Costello cut the ball back from inside the area to Butterworth, and as the youngster fired goalwards, Stoke was on hand to divert it beyond Palmer.

Butterworth went close himself to getting on the scoresheet soon after with a lashed effort that narrowly cleared the crossbar.

Stokes was replaced on 70 minutes by Lewis Mansell, like Elliott Ward, who came off after an hour, both had got through a good amount of work on their return to action.

The visitors should have grabbed a goal back 11 minutes from time when a free-kick from Dan Meredith was nodded into the path of Jack Fitzwater, but the Albion captain could only head straight into the arms of Raya.

However on 87 they did manage to get on the scoresheet in fortunate circumstances as a collision on the left touchline saw the ball break for Morton in on goal and he had time to pick his spot past Raya.

Thankfully for the home side that goal proved to be mere consolation as Rovers saw out the remaining minutes to claim the victory.

They return to Premier League 2 action next Tuesday night at Leyland, when they face Fulham in their penultimate league match.

ROVERS: Raya, Travis, Thompson, Tomlinson, Ward (sub Magloire 61 mins), Grayson, Thomson, Hardcastle (c), Stokes (sub Mansell 70 mins), Butterworth (sub Mols 90+4 mins), Rankin-Costello.

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

Goals: Stokes 57, 64 mins.

Booked: None.

WEST BROM: Palmer, Wilson, Melbourne (sub McCourt 82 mins), N'Guessan, Fitzwater (c) (sub Chambers 83 mins), O'Shea, Leko, Field, Morton, Harper, Bradley (sub Meredith 65 mins).

Subs not used: Keranovic (GK), Pierce.

Goals: None.

Booked: Morton 87 mins.

Attendance: 242

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