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Development Squad

PL Cup report: Rovers 0 Sunderland 1

2 March 2017

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Rovers' Under-23s finished their Premier League Cup group stage with a narrow 1-0 loss at home to Sunderland.

At a bitterly cold Brockhall, the match between the two already qualified sides was settled by a first half strike from Sunderland forward Josh Maja.

It was a strong home side that took to the field at the Academy with David Raya, Stephen Hendrie, Wes Brown, Willem Tomlinson and Adam Henley, making his first outing since November, in the starting eleven.

But it was the Black Cats with the first opportunity when a centre from Luke Molyneux picked out Joel Asoro in the area, but the attacker put his header wide.

Damien Johnson's side responded well with two excellent chances in quick succession.

On 21 Lewis Hardcastle sent Henley racing down the right, his centre picked out Lewis Mansell but from close-range the forward fired over the bar.

Two minutes later and another opportunity went begging. Tomlinson with the ball up to Daniel Butterworth who sent Joe Rankin-Costello in on goal, but James Talbot saved well as the midfielder looked to lift the ball over the keeper.

It would prove to be a key save as the visitors took the lead from the very next attack.

Sunderland worked the ball well through midfield and up to forward Maja and he fired low into the back of the net via the far post.

Boosted by the goal it was the Black Cats who controlled the remainder of the half. They soon had the ball in the net once more but Asoro was flagged offside.

Raya made a great save to deny Sunderland again, Lewis Travis on hand with a key block to keep out the follow-up.

The first half ended with another disallowed strike for the visitors, George Brady frustrated as his celebrations were cut short.

As the weather worsened in the second half there was little in the way of flowing football from either side. Asoro flashed a shot across the box, before Raya kept out a poked effort from Elliot Embleton at his near post.

Rovers huffed and puffed in the closing stages, but aside from a Tomlinson strike from distance that flew over the bar, there was little threat towards the Sunderland goal.

The result sees Sunderland as Group B winners, Rovers qualify courtesy of their second-placed finish.

"Obviously it is always disappointing to lose a game," Johnson told Rovers PlayerHD.

"I was disappointed with the performance as well, I think individually and collectively we are better than that today. But we've qualified and that is the positive.

"We tried a new formation, it was interesting to have a look at that. It was a new thing for us going three at the back but I don't think it affected the players. You just have those days when things don't go for you and I think too many of our lads had one of those days today."

ROVERS: Raya, Travis, Hendrie (sub Pemberton 74 mins), Tomlinson, Brown, Grayson, Henley (sub Mols 30 mins), Hardcastle (c), Mansell (sub Hendry 82 mins), Butterworth, Rankin-Costello.

Subs not used: Magloire, Powell (GK).

Goals: None.

Booked: Brown 45 mins, Tomlinson 56 mins, Rankin-Costello 88 mins.

SUNDERLAND: Talbot, J. Robson, Hume, Wright, Brady, Brotherton, Asoro (sub Gamble 76 mins), E. Robson (c), Maja, Embleton, Molyneux.

Subs not used: Casey, Stryjek (GK), Allan, Diamond.

Goals: Maja 24 mins.

Booked: E. Robson 67 mins.

Attendance: N/A

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