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Development Squad

PL2 Report: Middlesbrough 4 Rovers 1

13 March 2017

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Corry Evans scored on his return to action, but it wasn't enough to prevent the Under-23s slipping to a heavy defeat at Hartlepool.

The Northern Ireland international grabbed the opening goal in a 45 minute outing, but it proved to be the only high point on an otherwise disappointing display for the development squad.

Despite Evans giving Rovers a 20th minute lead, Finn Mikael Soisalo ensured it would be the hosts who would would have the edge at the break, and a strong start to the second half saw them stretch their advantage through Hayden Coulson.
Adam Henley also got another 45 minutes under his belt, whilst Academy full backs Lewis Thompson and Andy Jackson both got their first outings at Under-23 level, however it was the Boro who carried much more of an attacking threat. Soisalo grabbing his third 12 minutes from time to condemn the Lancashire side to their first loss in four Premier League 2 outings.

On a crisp evening in the north east there was little indication as to what would lie ahead in an even start to the match.

Soisalo was wide with a third minute chance for Boro, before a corner from Lewis Hardcastle bounced off the shins of Callum Johnson and into the grateful arms of Aynsley Pears in the home goal.

But on 20 minutes it was the Rovers who grabbed the opener, Hardcastle with a ball in from right to where Evans arrived to fire home.

Debutant Lewis Thompson was next to try his luck, but his long-range strike flashed wide.

However in the space of five minutes the match was turned on it's head thanks to two fine strikes from Soisalo.

On 28 minutes the Finn raced through to latch onto a pass from Marcus Tavernier to smash the ball home.

Then after Hardcastle saw a strike bend just beyond the post at one end, the hosts broke through at the other, Tavernier again the supplier, Soisalo with a vicious low shot that squirmed under Andy Fisher.

Rovers almost drew level just before the break as a Hardcastle corner picked out Lewis Mansell at the back post, but the young striker couldn't direct his header on target.

Evans and Henley made way at the break as Joe Grayson and Andy Jackson were introduced, but it was the host who were looking to stretch their advantage soon after the turnaround.

Alex Pattison fired over after good work from Coulson on the counter-attack before Pattison let fly moments later, his shot just clearing the bar.

And although Stefan Mols saw a cross strike the woodwork, the chances kept on coming for the hosts.

First half goalscorer Soisalo wasted an excellent chance to grab his third when he found himself through on goal with just Fisher to beat but he blazed horribly wide.

However fellow wide-man Coulson would have no such problems when he got the ball in the box, making it 3-1 with a low drive.

Rovers huffed and puffed but they failed to find the back of the net during their best spell of the second half.

Grayson saw a shot bobble wide before Daniel Butterworth slipped in Joe Rankin-Costello but he looked for a pass instead of taking up the option of a shot on goal.

Butterworth then lashed a 30-yard strike just the wrong side of the upright, however Middlesbrough were much more clinical in front of goal with a fourth 12 minutes from time.

Soisalo looked to have been thwarted when he was kept out when in one-on-one with Fisher, but Bradley Fewster kept the play alive and squared for the forward to claim his hat-trick from close-range.

The home side could have added more to their tally in the closing stages with Pattison twice going close, as Rovers suffered their first loss in four league outings.

"It was a disappointing night," said Under-23s boss Damien Johnson.

"With the pitch the way it was it was never going to be a night for good football but it was just about making good decisions and not making mistakes.

"Unfortunately we made too many mistakes and not many good decisions and they've punished us."

MIDDLESBROUGH: Pears, Johnson, McGoldrick, McGhee (c), Silva Torrajon, Liddle, Pattison, Tavernier, Fewster, Soisalo, Coulson (sub Mondal 82 mins).

Subs not used: Wheatley, Elsdon, Renton, Hemming.

Goals: Soisalo 28, 33, 78 mins, Coulson 57 mins.

Booked: Tavernier 55 mins.

ROVERS: Fisher, Henley (sub Jackson 46 mins), Thompson, Evans (sub Grayson 46 mins), Magloire, Travis, Mols (sub Pemberton 79 mins), Hardcastle (c), Mansell, Butterworth, Rankin-Costello.

Subs not used: Powell (GK), Hendry.

Goals: Evans 20 mins.

Booked: Rankin-Costello 63 mins.

Attendance: 134

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