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Report: Rovers Under-23s 2-2 Southampton Under-23s

Goals from Ben Paton and Jack Vale earn Rovers a point on home turf against the Saints at Leyland

14 February 2020

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A dominant first half display wasn't enough for Rovers, who had to settle for a point in an entertaining Premier League 2 Division 1 encounter against Southampton at Leyland.

Ben Paton's wonder-strike deservedly put the hosts ahead midway through the first half, and that was how it stayed going into half time.

The Saints improved after the break and hit back with two goals in as many minutes thanks to Will Ferry and Daniel N'Lundulu.

But Rovers never gave up, and got a point that their efforts deserved when Jack Vale picked himself up off the turf to level from the spot late on.

With next week's FA Youth Cup game on the horizon and the first team's encounter at Charlton Athletic at the weekend, Barr was forced to name a changed team against the Hampshire side.

There were first league starts for D'Margio Wright-Phillips and Jared Harlock, whilst Charlie Mulgrew earned an outing as he upped his return to match fitness.

Things started encouragingly for Barr's boys, when a long throw from Dan Pike after only four minutes nearly created the first chance for Rovers early on, but after Jack Vale snuck in behind, the Welshman saw Jack Bycroft in his way.

Pike was at the heart of the next opportunity soon after, but after rampaging forward from right back, his effort was put behind by the feet of Jack Bycroft.

Rovers were bossing the early stages, and Luke Brennan cracked the base of the post with a well struck effort from the edge of the box as Billy Barr's side pressed for an early opener.

The hosts continued to dominate, with Stefan Mols latching onto a Lewis Thompson cross, only for Bycroft to save his header, before the Saints stopper beat away an effort from league debutant D'Margio Wright-Phillips.

The visitors did finally have an opportunity, but Joe Hilton acrobatically tipped over N'Lundulu's curling attempt just before the half hour mark.

But just seconds later Rovers did take a deserved lead in stunning style via the left foot of Paton.

The Canadian picked the ball up outside the box before rifling a 25-yard efford beyond Bycroft and into the top right-hand corner to superbly open the scoring.

Dave Horseman's side looked for a quickfire response, but Hilton was out quickly to show bravery to deny Kornelius Hansen when the ball broke kindly in the box for the Norwegian striker.

The second half didn't have too many chances of note before Southampton grabbed an equaliser just after the hour mark.

After dropping his shoulder and working a yard, Ferry flew past Pike before unleashing a shot that was driven past Hilton and into the roof of the net to level things up.

There were only two minutes between Saints' first and their second goal of the night, with N'Lundulu turning the ball home from close range after Hilton could only beat Pascal Kpohomouh's low drive into the striker's path.

Rovers went in search of a way back into the game, but Paton's right-footed strike took a deflection on the way through to Bycroft.

That goal did finally arrive from the penalty spot after Vale was brought down in the box. The Welshman stepped up to slot home to the left of Bycroft and get Rovers back in the game.

That was to prove to be the last notable action of the game, as the sides both earned a point,which was the least Rovers deserved on the balance of play.

Next up is the final group game in the Premier League Cup, with a clash against Burnley set to be played at Morecambe's Globe Arena on Thursday 20th February, kick-off 1pm.

Rovers Under-23s: Hilton, Pike, Annesley (Boyomo, 63), Mulgrew, Thompson, Harlock, Mols, Paton, Wright-Phillips (Gilsenan, 76), Brennan (Saadi, 68), Vale.

Unused substitutes: Eastham, Durrant.

Goal: Paton, 31, Vale pen, 85.

Booked: Saadi, 73, Boyomo, 90

Southampton Under-23s: Bycroft, Kpohomouh, Ledwidge, Chauke, O'Driscoll (c), Olufinwa, Olaigbe, Jankewitz, N'Lundulu (Watts, 80), Hansen (Tella, 60), Ferry.

Unused substitutes: Scott, Bailey, Watts, Keogh.

Goal: Ferry, 64, N'Lundulu, 66

Booked: Olufunwa, 57,Jankewitz, 82, Ledwidge, 83

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