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Sparta Prague 1 Rovers 0

A second-half strike from Marc Janko sees the Czech side win

14 July 2017

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Rovers fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat against Czech giants Sparta Prague in their second pre-season friendly of the summer.

After a goalless first half, which Rovers probably shaded, Sparta stepped things up at the start of the second half and scored the only goal of the game on 50 minutes.

A ball in from the left found Marc Janko and the veteran Austria international, back in his homeland, produced a deft finish to beat David Raya from close range.

After weathering the Sparta storm, Rovers responded well and created two clear-cut chances to secure a share of the spoils, but substitute Danny Graham wasted a one-on-one and Darragh Lenihan put a free header straight at the Sparta keeper.

Lenihan was one of two Rovers players to get 90 minutes under his belt - the other being Elliott Bennett - as Rovers produced another hard-working performance amidst the Salzburg sunshine and showers.

Ahead of the game, manager Tony Mowbray named all four of his summer signings in the starting line-up.

Following an intensive week of football and fitness at the club's USV Elixhausen training base, Peter Whittingham, Richie Smallwood, Bradley Dack and Ben Gladwin all got the nod for the game against the Czech side.

There was a familiar look to the Rovers back four, as Charlie Mulgrew and Lenihan formed the central defensive partnership, with Ryan Nyambe and Derrick Williams at full-back.

Smallwood and Whittingham started in central midfield, with Craig Conway and Elliott Bennett occupying the wide roles and providing support for Dack and Gladwin in attack.

With goalkeeper Jason Steele not risked due to a slight thigh strain, Raya started between the sticks.

Rovers started brightly, with Smallwoood at the heart of all things good early on, before Sparta registered the first chance of the game on six minutes.

A long goal kick sent Josef Sural through on goal, but Raya made a superb save to beat the ball away.

Sural threatened again moments later, but his left-foot shot from the edge of the area deflected wide of the Rovers goal.

Rovers responded well, with Gladwin seeing a shot blocked, before Conway twice took up good positions in the final third, but couldn't be found by a Rovers team-mate.

A neat passing move saw Rovers threaten again on 33 minutes, as Bennett found Dack in the box, he cut the ball back to Gladwin, but with the referee getting in his way, he could only curl a shot wide of the left top corner.

Rovers kept the pressure up and Conway drove a shot inches over the bar after Sparta failed to clear their lines from a free-kick.

Goalless at the break, Rovers stuck with the same line-up for the start of the second half, as the players looked to build up their fitness levels following last Saturday's 2-1 victory over Barrow, where 22 players all got a 45-minute runout.

Sparta made a double change at the break and one of the substitutes, Ondrej Zahustel, was immediately involved, cutting back a cross from the right to the unmarked David Lafata, who saw his shot superbly blocked by Lenihan.

Rovers didn't heed the warning and Sparta opened the scoring a minute later. The ball was played in from the left this time and Janko beat the offside trap before deftly lifting the ball over the oncoming Raya.

Moments later, Janko again got in behind the Rovers defence, before cutting the ball back to Lafata, but Raya saved superbly with his legs.

On 58 minutes, Zahustel crossed from the right and Janko's clever back flick was saved on the line by Raya low to his right.

Rovers registered their first effort of the second half on the hour mark, as Mulgrew found Gladwin in space on the left, but after cutting inside, he saw his shot saved by Tomas Koubek at his near post.

A trio of changes then followed a minute later, as Graham, Feeney and Evans came on for Dack, Conway and Whittingham, and Rovers ought to have equalised soon after.

On 67 minutes, Smallwood played in Graham, one-on-one with Koubek, but the Rovers striker fired straight at the Sparta stopper.

A raft of changes arrived on 71 minutes, with Rovers bringing on their remaining six substitutes, and again they ought to have levelled soon after.

On 76mins, Feeney delivered a free-kick into the area from the left, which was met by the unmarked Lenihan, but his downward header from 10 yards out was comfortably saved by Koubek.

Feeney set up another chance with 10 minutes remaining, this time finding the feet of Graham, whose left foot shot was saved by the Sparta keeper.

The final effort of the game came from an unusual source on the 90-minute mark as Sparta defender Lukas Stetina tried to lob Andy Fisher direct from a free-kick 70 yards out, but the ball bounced just the wrong side of the post.

So, Rovers have one last day out in Austria before returning to England on Sunday, with their third pre-season friendly taking place at York City on Tuesday night.

ROVERS: Raya (Fisher 71), Nyambe (Caddis 71), Lenihan, Mulgrew (Wharton 71), Williams (Doyle 71), Smallwood (Hardcastle 71), Whittingham (Evans 61), Bennett, Conway (Feeney 61), Dack (Graham 61), Gladwin (Tomlinson 71).

SPARTA PRAGUE: Koubek, Karavaev (Zahustel 46), Frydek, Vatajelu (Plavsic 46), Janko (Julis 71), Pisko, Sural (Rosicky 71), Sacek (V. Kadlec 71), Lafata (Matousek 65), Stetina, M. Kadlec.

Subs: Bicik (GK), Cmelik, Spacek.

Goals: Janko (50)

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