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Development Squad

Rovers Under-23s 5 Wolves Under-23s 1

Joe Nuttall hits a hat-trick as Rovers U23s thrash Wolves in season opener

14 August 2017

CameraSport

Joe Nuttall scored a hat-trick as Rovers Under-23s kicked off the new Premier League 2 season with a resounding 5-1 victory over Wolves.

The summer signing from Aberdeen, who netted six goals in three games for the development squad in pre-season, continued his fine form on an emphatic evening at Ewood Park.

Rovers raced into an early two-goal lead, thanks to a follow-up finish from Joe Rankin-Costello and a Nuttall penalty, with the impressive Lewis Travis having a huge hand in both goals.

Damien Johnson's side picked up where they left off after the break, with Nuttall grabbing a quickfire double to complete his hat-trick and effectively put the game to bed.

Christian Herc pulled a goal back for the visitors midway through the second half, before Rovers captain Lewis Hardcastle completed the rout with a stunning long-range strike into the top corner.

Rovers lined up with a 3-4-3 formation and it caught Wolves out inside four minutes.

Travis broke down the right and centred for the unmarked Stefan Mols, who saw his shot was saved, but Rankin-Costello was on hand to head home the rebound.

Wolves looked to hit straight back, as Daniel Armstrong crossed from the right, but Aaron Collins' header landed on the roof of the net.

However, Rovers extended their lead on the quarter-hour mark. Travis again delivered a dangerous ball in from the right and Willem Tomlinson was hauled to the ground as he looked to connect in the middle.

Nuttall stepped up and coolly converted from the spot, sending the Wolves keeper the wrong way.

Rovers were a whisker away from adding a third just past the half-hour mark. Travis supplied another superb cross from the right and Rankin-Costello was inches away from connecting at the back post. 

The half ended just as it started with Travis once again deliveing a pin-point cross from the right and Nuttall steered his shot just the wrong side of the post.

Rovers continued in the same vein after the restart, twice going close in the 53rd minute. Nuttall glanced a Rankin-Costello cross wide, before the provider went for goal himself, curling an effort just wide of the upright.

However, the hosts didn't have long to wait to increase their advantage. On 55 minutes, Charley Doyle played a long ball forward to Nuttall, who showed tremendous pace and power to hold off his marker, before lifting the ball over the advancing Harry Burgoyne.

Two minutes later and the former Manchester City youngster completed his treble. Mols did brilliantly down the right, before cutting the ball back from the byline and Nuttall slammed home his hat-trick.

Wolves rang the changes, amidst manager Scott Sellars being sent to the stands, and one of the substitutes made an immediate impact, as Sherwin Seedorf cut the ball back to Pedro Goncalves, whose low shot grazed the outside of the post.

The visitors did pull a goal back on 71 minutes, as Herc drove forward, before bending a lovely shot from the edge of the area, which in off the inside of the post.

Virtually straight from the restart, Travis got to the byline and cut the ball back to Hardcastle, whose shot was well saved by the legs of Burgoyne and Daniel Butterworth volleyed the rebound into the side-netting.

The fifth and final goal did arrive moments later. On 75 minutes, a corner was cleared as far as Hardcastle, who unleashed a sweet left-foot strike which flew into the top corner from 25 yards.

Rovers could have added a sixth in added time, with a three-on-one on the break, but Butterworth fired wide of the target after being played in by Connor Thomson.

Overall, five well-worked goals, some free-flowing football and a superb start to the season for Johnson's young side.

ROVERS: Fisher, C. Doyle, J. Doyle, Tomlinson, Platt, Grayson, Travis, Hardcastle (Thomson 86), Nuttall (Mansell 72), Mols (Butterworth 63), Rankin-Costello.
Subs not used: Albinson, Magloire.

Goals: Rankin-Costello (4), Nuttall (15 pen, 55, 57), Hardcastle (75)

Booked: Mols, Tomlinson

WOLVES: Burgoyne, Rainey, Breslin, Goncalves, Johnson, Leak (John 62), Armstrong (Seedorf 65), Herc, Collins (Finnie 59), Wilson, Randall. Subs not used: Heredia, Allan.

Goals: Herc (71)

Booked: Armstrong

Attendance: 405


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