Development Squad beaten in final game of the season

Apr 30, 2019 | Development squad, News


The Development Squad finished their season with defeat to Southend United Under-23s at the Mem on Tuesday afternoon, but were close to an incredible comeback in the final moments.

Both sides had their fair share of chances, with Lucas Tomlinson, Deon Moore and Rhys Kavanagh all going close for the hosts, but Southend proved more clinical in front of goal.

Rovers staged a late comeback with two goals in two minutes from Moore and Harry Warwick, but it turned out to be too little too late as they fell to defeat on their final game of the season.

Contrary to recent weeks, Rovers fielded a far more junior side with Chris Lines the only truly senior figure in the starting line up.

Academy prospects Luca Hoole, Sam Heal (just 16-years old), Tom Mehew and  Tomlinson were all given opportunities from the off.

Tomlinson was one of five academy players to recently sign a pro contract and gave a glimpse of why early on, when he picked up the ball 30 yards from goal and weaved his way into the box, but was eventually forced wide and saw his deflected cross cleared.

Minutes later and Rovers had a real chance to take the lead, when a lovely flowing move through the centre culminated with Moore sliding Kavanagh in on goal, but the striker came under challenge and the keeper was able to make a save.

Kavanagh had another sighter of goal, when  Moore worked a yard out right and whipped in a great ball for his strike partner, who looked to glance it at goal but it skipped wide of the post.

Rovers largely dominated the opening 20 minutes, but there was a rare attack from Southend as they looked to hit Rovers on the counter. Charlie Kellman got in on the inside of Heal but scuffed his shot and Andre-Jr was able to clear.

Despite the early dynamic, it was in fact the visitors who broke the deadlock, as Kellman found himself unmarked at a corner and glanced the ball into the bottom corner.

Tomlinson had been at the centre of most things good for Rover and looked to orchestrate a response just past the half-hour mark, but saw his shot from close-range charged down well by a defender.

Fellow academy midfielder Mehew also tried to find an equaliser for his side, as hit a decent strike from 25 yards and forced a good stop from the United keeper.

Rovers started to regain control toward the final five minutes of the half, as Lines found Russe with a smart cross from deep but the young midfielder got underneath his header and it looped over.

On the stroke of half time, Rovers had a real chance to level the scores as Kavanagh fired in an excellent cross for Moore at the back post, but the striker didn’t set himself and sent it over the bar.

An even better one came minutes later, as Lines delivered an exquisite free kick for Moore who headed straight at the keeper; either side of him and Rovers surely would have been level.

After the break, Tomlinson continued to be a spark for Rovers, trying a give and go with Mehew and almost got through but the pass was cut out.

Hoole picked up the hosts first booking of the afternoon as he slid in late on Kellman.

Shortly after, Southend doubled their lead as Emile Acquah stabbed home from close range.

Russe almost gave the perfect response and forced a great save from the keeper with a powerful drive on the edge of the box.

Another good chance went begging for Moore and Rovers, who was played in by a superb pass from Mehew round the back of the defence. The striker went one-on-one but the keeper produced a good save to deny him.

The hosts were trying to stage a fightback and were causing their opponents problem, when Lines broke through the midfield and onto the defence before laying the ball off left to Russe. He tried to cut it back to Moore but a defender cut it out.

Moments later, Tomlinson hit a decent volley in the box but it was well blocked.

At the other end Rovers still had to be alert as Southend looked to hit them on the counter, with an excellent block from Kilgour denying Hutchinson from close range.

With 20 minutes left on the clock, Lee Mansell opted for a double switch that saw Lines and Kavanagh replaced by Warwick and Zain Walker.

Warwick got straight into the action as he latched onto a ball over the top down the right before firing a dangerous ball on the half-volley across goal for Moore, but a defender did well to intercept it.

Moments before, Mehew played a nice one-two with Tomlinson before trying to curl the ball towards the bottom corner but a defender got a good block in.

However, just before the final 10 minutes, the game went further out of Rovers’ reach as substitute Eren Kinali finished from close range on the rebound after Hutchinson’s free-kick bounced back off the post.

On 87 minutes, Russe was replaced by Ollie Hulbert.

Rovers did manage to pull one back when Moore was on the spot to turn home Hoole’s superb low cross at the back post.

Minutes later and it was 3-2, as Hoole again did excellently to ghost into the box and cut it back for Warwick who slid it home from 10-yards.

Rovers continued to push to find what would have been a remarkable equaliser, the best chance dropping to Moore eight yards out but he couldn’t quite connect.

Rovers XI: Alexis Andre-Jr (GK), Luca Hoole, Alfie Kilgour (c), Ben Morgan, Sam Heal, Luke Russe (Ollie Hulbert, 87′), Tom Mehew, Chris Lines (Zain Walker, 70′), Lucas Tomlinson, Deon Moore, Rhys Kavanagh (Harry Warwick, 70′).

Unused subs: Liam Armstrong (GK), Jamie Bremner.

Southend XI: Ted Smith (GK), Rob Howard (c), Tom Clifford, Michael Klass, Sam Knock, Richard Taylor, Charlie Kellman, Renei Batlokwa, Emile Acquah, Isaac Hutchinson, Norman Wabo.

Subs: Zak Pianim (GK), Harry Seaden, Miles Mitchell, Eren Kinali, Amadou Ba.