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PL Cup report: Rovers Under-23s 3-1 Middlesbrough U23s

Rovers come back from a goal down to earn victory in game two of the Premier League Cup

8 November 2019

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Rovers came back from a goal down to earn a second successive 3-1 Premier League Cup win and keep their 100% record in the competition.

Second half strikes from Dan Butterworth, Joe Rankin-Costello and Jack Vale earned the win against a resolute Middlesbrough side who took an early lead through Joseph Gibson.

Whilst the first half wasn't the most flowing display, the second half improvement and three goals in the final 15 minutes ensured that it was a satisfying night's work for the Rovers youngsters.

Further positives will have been minutes in the tank for front pair Ben Brereton and Dominic Samuel, who appeared for 60 minutes each on their comeback from injury.

The visitors started the better in the Leyland chill, with Joe Hilton producing a strong block to deny Gibson from close range after only seven minutes played.

But with his next chance Gibson made no mistake and put Boro 1-0 up. Good play saw Isaiah Jones race clear before showing great awareness to set up the winger to calmly slot beyond Hilton and into the back of the net from just eight yards out.

Rovers went in search of a quick response, with Samuel coming closest to equalising in a lacklustre first half from Barr's boys.

The second half began just as the first half did, with Middlesbrough having an early opportunity. This time it was through Stephen Wearne, but the teenager's effort flew just beyond Hilton's left-hand post.

Rankin-Costello attempted to get Rovers back on level terms just moments later, but his goalbound attempt was turned around the post by Zach Hemming.

Soon after and Hayden Hackney thumped past the post as the game began stretched as Boro looked for a second whilst Rovers pushed for their own opening goal of the evening.

The hour mark saw the returning Brereton replaced by Isaac Whitehall, whilst Samuel was sacrificed to allow Welsh Under-21 international Vale to enter the action.

The Teessiders continued to venture forward, with skipper Patrick Reading unleashing a drive that flew just wide on 66 minutes.

Rovers did get the equaliser soon after, and it came with a bit of fortune as Butterworth bagged his fourth goal in as many games. His shot from distance took the slightest of deflections before beating Hemming and finishing in the back of the net.

And things got better just minutes later as Rankin-Costello rose highest to nod a pinpoint delivery from Stefan Mols into the bottom right-hand corner.

Rankin-Costello was involved again just a minute before full time to ensure Rovers' victory. His effort deflected kindly into the path of Vale who made no mistake to make the game safe and continue the team's 100% Premier League Cup record.

Rovers keep their place at the top of Group G, with Burnley the visitors in the next game of the competition on Friday 29th November, kick-off 1pm at Ewood Park.

Rovers Under-23s: Hilton, Rankin-Costello, Sobowale, Barnes, Thompson, Mols (c), Davenport, Butterworth, Chapman (Paton, 73), Brereton (Whitehall, 60), Samuel (Vale, 60).

Unused substitutes: Eastham, Carter.

Goals: Butterworth, 76, Rankin-Costello, 84, Vale, 89.

Booked: Thompson, 81.

Middlesbrough Under-23s: Hemming, Spence, Reading (c), Wood, Dale, Hackney, Jones (Dodds, 75), Wearne, Burrell, Malley (Folarin, 90), Gibson.

Unused substitutes: Robinson, Hood, Flatters.

Goal: Gibson, 12.

Booked: Wood, 90, Wearne, 90.

Referee: Joseph Johnson.

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