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Match Reports

Derby U23s 2 Rovers U23s 2

10-man Rovers let a two-goal lead slip as they pick up a point at Pride Park

13 August 2018

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Rovers Under-23s kicked off life in Premier League 2 Division 1 with a dramatic 2-2 draw away to Derby County.

Damien Johnson's side let a 2-0 lead slip and then played the final 25 minutes with 10 men, as their season opener ended all-square.

Playing their first game in the top flight after winning the Division 2 title last season, Rovers raced into an early two-goal lead thanks to a stunning strike from Stefan Mols and Hayden Carter's free header from a corner.

However, the hosts reduced the arrears against the run of play just past the half-hour mark through Cameron Cresswell's fortunate finish and they were back on level terms shortly after the restart when Alex Babos volleyed home.

Charley Doyle had a goal chalked off for offside, before he saw red for a challenge on Sven Karic.

The hosts were unable to take advantage of the extra man, as Andy Fisher twice denied Chris Martin in the closing stages, as Rovers opened their top-flight account with a hard-fought point.

There was a familiar and youthful look to Johnson's starting XI, with Willem Tomlinson, who has just nine first team appearances to his name, the most experienced Rovers player on show and no-one above the age of 20.

The hosts, by contrast, had a trio of senior stars on show, with 25-year-old George Thorne, 28-year-old Jacob Butterfield and 29-year-old Martin all getting a run-out at Pride Park.

However, it was the visitors who made a lightning-quick start and opened the scoring with less than a minute on the clock.

Mols played a lovely give-and-go with Lewis Hardcastle, before racing through on goal and firing emphatically into the top right hand corner of the Derby net. It was some start to life in the top flight!

And it got even better for Johnson's side, who doubled their lead with just nine minutes played.

Joe Grayson sent over a corner from the right and Carter ran unchallenged in the area before powerfully heading home past the Derby keeper and defender on the line. 

It took until 26 minutes before Derby registered their first attempt of the game, as Martin slipped in Cameron Cresswell, but Andy Fisher made a smart save.

Straight down the other end, goalscorers Carter and Mols combined to set up Dan Butterworth in front of goal, but Henrich Ravas made a superb save to keep out his initial effort, before scurrying back to palm the ball away as it looked set to roll over the line.

With Rovers seemingly in control, Derby halved the deficit in fortuitous circumstances on 34 minutes. A long ball forward caused confusion at the back and Fisher's attempted clearance hit Cresswell and ricocheted into the back of the Rovers net.

The goal would prove pivotal, as it offered the hosts a route back into the game and less than two minutes after the restart they drew level. Butterfield's free-kick into the box was only half headed clear and Babos struck a crisp first-time volley into the bottom corner.

Rovers thought they had regained the lead on 53 minutes when Charley Doyle headed home Grayson's free-kick, but the linesman ruled it out for offside.

Doyle felt aggrieved by the officials again on 65 minutes as he was given his marching orders following a challenge on Karic.

Derby looked to make the most of the numerical advantage and came close to a third on 77 minutes. A pass was played through to Martin, who fired a left-foot shot across Fisher, who palmed the ball around the post.

And the keeper came to Rovers' rescue again three minutes from time, as a cross from the left was met by Martin in the middle, but Fisher pulled off a superb save with his legs to keep out the striker's header.

Rovers saw out the five minutes of added time to pick up a decent point away to a strong Derby side.

DERBY: Ravas, Gordon, Karic, Thorne, Bateman, MacDonald, Cresswell (McAllister 71), Elsnik (Sibley 61), Martin, Butterfield (Shonibare 79), Babos.
Subs not used: Barnes, Mitchell-Lawson.

Goals: Cresswell (34), Babos (47).
Booked: Thorne, MacDonald, Karic.

ROVERS: Fisher, Evans, C. Doyle, Magloire (Paton 53), Carter, Grayson, Hardcastle, Tomlinson, Buckley, Mols, Butterworth (Simmonds 86).
Subs not used: Albinson, Vale, Mansell. 

Goals: Mols (1), Carter (9).
Booked: Butterworth, Buckley.
Sent off: Doyle.

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