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Development Squad

Report: Rovers U23s 6 Watford U23s 1

Rovers thrash Watford 6-1 to move top of their Premier League Cup group

3 November 2017

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Scholar Callum Wright scored a brilliant brace and missed a penalty as Rovers Under-23s cruised to a convincing 6-1 victory over Watford in the Premier League Cup.

As fireworks went off overhead, Rovers' young stars produced a sparkling performance on the pitch to extend their unbeaten run to seven games and move to the top of their group.

Wright opened the scoring on 32 minutes, coolly slotting the ball under the keeper, before doubling Rovers' lead two minutes later with a superb strike into the top corner.

Lewis Mansell headed home Rovers' third on 51 minutes, before Wright missed the chance to claim his hat-trick, as he saw his penalty saved, but Jack Doyle was on hand to tap home the rebound.

Scott Wharton headed home Rovers' fifth just past the hour mark, before Dan Butterworth came off the bench to grab the sixth in fortuitous circumstances.

Rovers could - and perhaps should - have scored more, as Butterworth twice went close and Joe Rankin-Costello hit the post, whilst Watford scored a late consolation through Michael Folivi.

The margin of victory was even more impressive given that top scorer Joe Nuttall, who has netted 12 times for the Under-23s this season, was once again called up to the senior squad for the FA Cup clash with Barnet.

Ahead of the game, Rovers made three changes to the side that defeated Stoke City 2-0 in the PL2 on Monday night.

Charlie Albinson, Tyler Magloire and Wright came into the starting line-up in place of Andy Fisher, Josh Kay and Stefan Mols, who suffered a fractured tibia in the victory over the Potters.

Rankin-Costello recovered from the groin strain which forced him off late on in the game against Stoke, whilst Rovers welcomed captain Lewis Hardcastle back into the fold following a spell on the sidelines.

He was joined on the bench by Butterworth, Jack Vale and John Buckley, who had helped Rovers' Under-18s progress through to the second round of the FA Youth Cup with victory over Tranmere on Wednesday.

Rovers started brightly, with Rankin-Costello firing a free-kick over the bar on five minutes and Charley Doyle heading Wright's corner over from close range soon after.

The hosts were dealt a blow on 27 minutes when Connor Thomson hobbled off injured and a minute later Watford registered their first effort of the game, but Folivi's attempted curler went high over the bar.

Rovers were quickly back in the ascendancy, with Jack Doyle heading Charley Doyle's deep cross over the bar on 31 minutes, before Damien Johnson's side opened the scoring with their next attack.

Rankin-Costello played the ball into the feet of Wright, his first touch took him in on goal and he coolly slotted the ball under the Watford keeper.

Two minutes later and it was 2-0, as Wright doubled Rovers' lead in sensational style. After picking the ball up on the left flank, Wright cut inside and opened his body up, before curling a superb 25-yard shot into the top right hand corner.

On the stroke of half-time, Mansell tried his luck from distance and the Watford keeper had to palm the ball behind.

Watford threatened right from the restart, as Randell Williams had a clear sight of goal, but his tame effort was straight at Albinson and on 51 minutes Rovers added a third.

Jack Doyle delivered an excellent cross from the left and Mansell got up well in the middle to head home.

Seven minutes later and Rovers added a fourth. Brandon Mason brought down Lewis Travis, Wright stepped up to complete his hat-trick, but saw his penalty saved, however Jack Doyle was on hand to slot home the rebound.

Just past the hour mark, Rovers made it five. Rankin-Costello's free-kick into the area was sliced up into the air by a Watford defender and Wharton beat the keeper to the ball and his header went in off the underside of the bar.

Butterworth was then introduced and the substitute found himself on the scoresheet just two minutes later. After bursting forward, a Watford defender cleared the ball off Butterworth and the ball looped over the keeper and into the back of the net.

The young striker came close to a second soon after, but Nathan Gartside made a fine save low to his left. Travis then teed him up, but he blazed over the bar.

Watford grabbed a consolation goal on 81 minutes when Alex Jakubiak beat a couple of Rovers players as he burst into the box, before squaring the ball to Folivi to tap into the empty net.

Rovers regained control in the closing stages, as Rankin-Costello's curler from 25 yards out bounced back off the post, before Buckley played in Mansell, whose shot deflected just wide off the keeper.

Having drawn 3-3 with Cardiff City in their opening group game, in which Nuttall netted twice and missed a penalty, Rovers now sit top of Group B ahead of their trip to Southampton next month.

ROVERS: Albinson, Thomson (Buckley 27), Magloire, Platt (Hardcastle 67), Wharton, J. Doyle, C. Doyle, Travis, Wright (Butterworth 61), Rankin-Costello, Mansell.
Subs not used: Dillon, Vale.

Goals: Wright (32, 34), Mansell (51), J. Doyle (58), Wharton (61), Butterworth (63).

WATFORD: Gartside, Eleftheriou, Mason, Rowan, Stevens, Mukena (Jakubiak 51), Stewart (Sesay 73), Djedje, Folivi, Ryan, Williams (Charles 64).
Subs not used: Huja, Hoskins.

Goal: Folivi (81)
Booked: Djedje, Eleftheriou.

Attendance: 137

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