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U18 PL Cup: Rovers 1 Chelsea 1

18 September 2017

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Callum Dolan
Callum Dolan

Rovers' Academy kicked off their U18 Premier League Cup group with an encouraging 1-1 draw with Chelsea on Saturday.

Billy Barr's youngsters fell behind early at Brockhall, but a first goal of the season from Callum Dolan early in the second half saw the Rovers level.

The home side played out the final quarter of the match with ten men after Hayden Carter saw red, but they more then held their own to earn a share of the points.

With a host of players absent through injury, it was a hugely inexperienced side that took to the field to face a much-fancied Chelsea team at Brockhall.

Midfield regulars George Wilson and Ben Paton were in as makeshift full-backs, whilst Matthew Chan and Kyle Connell made their first starts at this level.

And that unfamiliarity showed in the early stages as Chelsea started strongly, eventually taking the lead after just 14 minutes.

Defender Jonathan Panzo started the move, driving forward from the back, and he was on the end of the eventual cross to head home.

Despite the disappointment of going behind early, Rovers grew in confidence and restricted their opponents to few clear-cut openings.

And that first half promise was rewarded early in the second as the home side got back on level terms.

A corner from the right caused consternation in the Chelsea box and Dolan was on hand to apply the finishing touch from close-range. The first goal Chelsea have conceded this season, in over 500 minutes of football.

Boosted by the goal, suddenly it was Rovers fashioning the better chances. Connell saw an effort blocked, before Welsh youngster Jack Vale fired over.

The chances kept on coming for the young Rovers as John Buckley, Carter and Paton all went close, but they would have to play the remaining 15 minutes with ten men as captain Carter saw red for bringing down last man Daishawn Redan.

Despite being a man light, it was Barr's side who were left frustrated that they didn't claim all three points. Young striker Connell twice going close.

At the other end a Rovers defence now featuring Under-16 defender Isaac Whitehall stood strong to resist late Chelsea pressure, Matty Campbell keeping out a Redan effort in the final moments of the match to ensure the match ended 1-1.

"Due to the amount of injuries that we have got we were a very young team, but it was a very pleasing day," said Barr.

"We come away from it happy with the way we are playing, even if we had been beaten we'd have been happy with them.

"We defended our box really well when we were down to ten men, and after that we had chances to win the game.

"With the amount of play we are having the goals will come in time. It was a good performance.

"We now move on with Derby the visitors this weekend, hopefully we'll have a few coming back from injury."

ROVERS: Campbell, Wilson, Paton, Buckley, Carter (c), Barnes, Dolan, Chan, Connell, Vale (sub Evans 65 mins), Khoury (sub Whitehall 76 mins).

Subs not used: Winterbottom, Boyomo, Pike.

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