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Report: Rovers Under-23s 1-1 Brighton Under-23s

Connor McBride's late penalty cancels out Ben Wilson's early strike at the County Ground

19 March 2021

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Connor McBride scored a late penalty, as Rovers Under-23s drew 1-1 at home to Brighton & Hove Albion.

The visitors carried the greater threat in the first half – denied by the woodwork on three occasions – and opening the scoring on nine minutes when Ben Wilson bundled the ball home from close range.

Rovers, who had scored nine goals in their previous two home games, failed to hit the same heights, but they got their rewards for staying in the game seven minutes from time when McBride netted his 12th of the season – confidently converting from the penalty spot.

The result leaves Billy Barr’s side second in the Premier League 2 table, four points behind leaders Manchester City.

Ahead of the game, Barr made three changes to the side that defeated Arsenal 3-0 last time out.

With Jake Garrett and Lenni Cirino involved in FA Youth Cup action tomorrow, in came Sam Barnes and Stefan Mols, whilst Antonis Stergiakis was preferred to Jordan Eastham in goal.

A young Rovers bench included scholars Joe Ferguson, Adam Wharton, Ben Fyles and Patrick Gamble.

Brighton made a bright start and almost opened the scoring with little over a minute on the clock when a corner from the left fell kindly to Ed Turns – who was sent off in the reverse fixture back in November – and his shot crashed against the crossbar from close range.

However, the visitors did take an early lead, inside nine minutes, when Danny Cashman’s cross was headed against the bar by Marc Leonard, but Wilson was on hand to fire home the follow-up.

Wilson threatened again on 13 minutes, as he latched onto a ball over the top, but he sliced his shot well wide.

Brighton created another good chance on 17 minutes when Stefan Vukoje got the better of Dan Pike down the left, before cutting infield and breaking into the box, but his shot cleared the crossbar.

Rovers’ first real opportunity arrived just before the half-hour mark when Sam Burns created space for a shot, but his effort was well saved by Carl Rushworth. Seconds later, McBride curled over the upright from the edge of the area.

With Rovers pushing for an equaliser, Brighton came close to doubling their lead on the counter-attack on 35 minutes, as Wilson looked to lob Stergiakis from 35 yards out, but his shot drifted inches wide.

Again the visitors threatened on the stroke of half-time when Ayo Tanimowo centred from the right and the dangerous Wilson side-footed a shot against the base of the post.

Rovers came close to an equaliser just 10 seconds after the restart, but Burns’ low strike sailed just wide of the target.

The hosts threatened again on 50 minutes when Sam Durrant teed up Mols, but his top corner-bound strike was well saved by Rushworth.

Again, Brighton seemed content to try and hit Rovers on the break, and they almost did on 62 minutes, but Stergiakis made a superb save to deny Tanimowo from point-blank range.

Straight up the other end, McBride got in behind the Brighton defence, but Rushworth got a vital touch on the ball to take the sting out of the Scottish striker’s shot.

After a scrappy spell, Rovers made a double change 10 minutes from time, with Wharton and Fyles coming on for their Under-23s debuts, in place of Joe Nolan and Durrant.

And just two minutes later, Rovers were awarded a penalty when Jack Wakely climbed all over Burns in the box and McBride made no mistake from the spot.

Burns came close to grabbing the winner in the closing stages as twice he fired a shot through the legs of a Brighton defender, but on both occasions his efforts were straight at Rushworth, as both sides were forced to settle for a point.

Rovers head into the international break now on a five-game unbeaten run and are back in action away to Everton on Monday April 12th.

ROVERS: Stergiakis, Pike, Saadi, Barnes (c), Annesley, Whitehall, Mols, Nolan (Wharton 80), Durrant (Fyles 80), McBride, Burns.
Subs not used: Eastham, Gamble, Ferguson.

Booked: Nolan, Pike, Saadi, Burns
Goal: McBride (83 pen)


BRIGHTON: Rushworth, Tanimowo, Furlong, Leonard, Wakely, Turns, Cashman, Spong, Wilson (Ferguson 71), Jenks (c), Vukoje (Yapi 86).
Subs not used: Rees, Ella, Offiah.

Goal: Wilson (9)
Booked: Jenks, Tanimowo, Cashman

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