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Development Squad

U23s report: Rovers 1 Southampton 0

The league leaders pick up a massive win in dramatic fashion in Leyland

20 March 2018

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Lewis Travis CameraSport
Lewis Travis

Rovers Under-23s moved four points clear at the top of the Premier League 2 Division 2 table on Tuesday night following a late win over Southampton in Leyland.

The young Blues looked to be heading for a share of the spoils after Joe Grayson's missed penalty on 84 minutes, but Jack Evans struck with seconds remaining to seal a crucial victory.

Ahead of the game, manager Damien Johnson named a youthful side, with Okera Simmonds again leading the line following impressive recent form.

Fresh from signing his first professional contract, Lewis Thompson was named among the substitutes, while Under-16 starlet James Connolly was also on the bench.

On a crisp but clear evening in East Lancashire, it was Rovers who made the brighter start, winning the early battle for possession in the middle of the park.

The first chance fell to Southampton, however, but attacker Siph Mdlalose couldn't make a proper connection with a deep cross to the far post on six minutes.

Rovers then had a great opening just seven minutes later, as John Buckley cut in front the right and saw a shot deflect into the path of Willem Tomlinson, but the midfielder sliced narrowly wide from six yards.

The home side went close again shortly after, as a one-two between Lewis Travis and Lewis Hardcastle almost came off, only for the former to see his low effort from the edge of the area well saved.

With Rovers applying some pressure, the Saints almost took the lead against the run of play mid-way through the half, but Matty Platt got back superbly to block a goal-bound strike.

Just after the half-hour mark, Buckley got the better of his man again and reached the byline, but Evans saw his close-range effort saved.

The sides went in level at the break, with Johnson's men on top but frustrated by the form of Saints keeper Jack Rose.

Rovers started the second half as they had ended the first, on the front foot and in search of a breakthrough, with Travis becoming increasingly influential in midfield.

The first chance of note after the break didn't arrive until the 62nd minute, as Southampton created a rare opening through Olufela Olomola, who fired wide after finding space on the edge of the box.

Johnson rolled the dice shortly after, with Thompson coming on in place of Platt for the remaining 23 minutes.

Rovers continued to play some tidy football in the Southampton half thereafter, without hurting the visitors' defence by creating clear-cut chances.

As the game entered the final 10 minutes, Buckley again threatened to get in behind down the right, but no-one was there to meet his inviting low cross.

Seven minutes from time, Rovers were given a golden opportunity to take the lead when Evans took a tumble in the box and was awarded a penalty.

Grayson stepped up and sent his spot-kick to Rose's right, but again the Saints keeper thwarted the Blues, palming the ball away.

There was time for one last piece of drama though, as Evans fired home from inside the area with 90 minutes on the clock, to send Rovers four points clear with four games to go.

Rovers: Fisher, Platt (Thompson 67'), Evans, Doyle, Magloire, Grayson, Buckley, Hardcastle (c), Simmonds, Tomlinson, Travis.

Subs not used: Barnes, Albinson, Connolly, Moore.

Booked: Magloire (18'), Simmonds (74' )

Goals: Evans (90')

Southampton: Rose, Rowthorn (Klarer 89'), Johnson, Little, Jones (c), O'Driscoll, Mdlalose (Robise 81'), Slattery, Olomola, Hesketh, Tella.

Subs not used: Latham, Hamblin, Smallbone.

Booked: Slattery (22')

Attendance: 171

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