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Development Squad

Report: Rovers U23s 0 Aston Villa U23s 1

Jordan Lyden's goal the difference between the two teams at Ewood Park

16 April 2018

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Rovers Under-23s missed out on the chance to claim the Premier League 2 Division 2 title after slipping to a narrow 1-0 defeat at home to second-placed Aston Villa.

In front of over 1,000 fans at Ewood Park, Villa captain Jordan Lyden scored the only goal of the game on the stroke of half-time, volleying home at the back post.

The result means that Rovers must now beat West Bromwich Albion in their final fixture next Monday in order to secure the crown or hope that Villa drop points in either of their remaining two games.

Ahead of the match, Damien Johnson made one change to the side that defeated Newcastle United 2-0 a week earlier, with John Buckley coming into the starting line-up in place of Okera Simmonds, who dopped to the bench.

Rovers registered the first effort of the game, inside four minutes, as Joe Nuttall laid the ball back to Willem Tomlinson, who fired inches over the upright from the edge of the area.

The hosts enjoyed plenty of possession in the early exchanges and created another great chance at the midway point in the half, when Nuttall slipped the ball through to Stefan Mols, who stepped inside two Villa defenders, before blazing just over the bar.

Rovers went closer still on 27 minutes when Joe Grayson swung over a cross from the left and Nuttall's downward header forced a superb save from Matija Sarkic on the goal-line and a Villa defender hacked the ball clear.

Villa threatened just past the half-hour mark when Lyden played in Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, who delivered a dangerous low cross from the right, but Grayson got back to make an important interception.

Hepburn-Murphy threatened again on 37 minutes, but his crisp low strike was well held by Andy Fisher.

Rovers remained the better side and looked a threat from set-plays, with Tyler Magloire and Matty Platt both seeing shots blocked just before the break.

However, on the stroke of half-time, Villa took the lead. A cross from the left was miscued by Keinan Davis in the middle and Lyden volleyed the ball home at the back post.

Rovers created the first chance of the second half, on 53 minutes, but Mols couldn't keep his volley down.

Villa went straight down the other end and almost added a second, but Davis' left-foot shot bounced back off the foot of the post. 

Rovers twice came close to an equaliser just past the hour mark as Lewis Travis' shot was headed clear off the line and Tomlinson's low long-range drive was well saved on the follow-up.

Grayson then fired over the bar moments later.

On 68 minutes, a thunderous tackle from Travis played in Nuttall, but he just couldn't squeeze the ball past the oncoming keeper from an acute angle.

Rovers rolled the dice, bringing on Simmonds for Lewis Hardcastle, and were a whisker away from drawing level on 72 minutes, but Tomlinson's stabbed shot goalwards deflected agonisingly past the post.

Moments later, Grayson's free-kick to the far post was volleyed across goal by Platt, but Simmonds just couldn't stretch far enough to slide it home.

Lewis Mansell was introduced with 10 minutes remaining and he almost came up with the goods in the 88th minute, but he headed just wide of the target.

The result was harsh on Rovers, who were the better side throughout, and they will now hope to get the job done at Kidderminster Harriers in seven days time.

ROVERS: Fisher, Buckley, Platt, Magloire (Mansell 81), Grayson, Evans, Hardcastle (Simmonds 69), Tomlinson, Travis, Mols, Nuttall.
Subs not used: Byrne, Wilson, Barnes.

Booked: Hardcastle.

ASTON VILLA: Sarkic, Clark, Borg, Suliman, Bedeau, Clarke (Prosser 85), Hepburn-Murphy (Mooney 82), Doyle-Hayes, Davis (Abdo 57), Lyden, O'Hare.
Subs not used: Watkins, Blackett-Taylor.

Goal: Lyden (45+1)
Booked: Doyle-Hayes, Lyden, Borg, Clarke, Hepburn-Murphy.

Attendance: 1,093

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