Rovers Under-23s’ four-match winning run came to an end, as they went down 4-1 away to Middlesbrough in the Premier League Cup.
Billy Barr’s side had already qualified for the knockout stage of the competition, having won all four of their previous group games, whilst the victory for Boro saw them book their place in the last 16.
With the first team in action against Fulham the following day, Barr made eight changes to the side that defeated Derby County in Premier League 2 last time out, with six scholars starting the game at Heritage Park.
By comparison, the hosts included experienced defensive duo George Friend and Ryan Shotton in their starting ranks.
But it was Rovers who got off to the perfect start, opening the scoring with less than 10 minutes on the clock. After being awarded a penalty, Stefan Mols stepped up and coolly slotted the ball into the bottom right corner, sending the keeper the wrong way.
However, Rovers’ lead lasted less than five minutes, as Middlesbrough equalised in spectacular style when Sam Folarin unleashed an unstoppable shot into the top left corner from 25 yards out.
Boro then took the lead at the midway point in the half when captain Tyrone O’Neill converted from the spot and the hosts extended their advantage six minutes after the break when Folarin tapped home from close range.
O'Neill netted his second of the game on 69 minutes to complete the scoring and secure Middlesbrough’s place in the knockout phase.
Rovers will top Group G if they beat Burnley in their final group game at Morecambe’s Globe Arena on Thursday February 20th, whilst Middlesbrough must defeat Crystal Palace and hope the Rovers result goes in their favour.
Barr’s boys are back in league action this Friday (February 14th) when they welcome Southampton to the LFA County Ground in Leyland, kick-off 7pm.
MIDDLESBROUGH: Brynn, Dodds, Shotton, Hood, Friend (Gibson 60), Robinson, Wearne, Hackney, Burrell, O'Neill, Folarin.
Subs not used: Flatters, Balde, Cornet, Reed.
Goals: Folarin (14, 51), O’Neill (22 pen, 69)
Booked: Hackney (45), Friend (53)
ROVERS: Eastham, Pike (Harlock 62), Magloire, Boyomo (Saadi 71), Thompson, Whitehall, Paton, Mols, Wright-Phillips, Brennan (Gilsenan 62), Vale.
Subs not used: Dowling.
Goal: Mols (9 pen)
Booked: Whitehall (36), Paton (84)
Photo credit: Middlesbrough FC