Rovers U23s’ almost fourteen-month unbeaten away run in the Premier League 2 came to an end on Friday night with a 6-4 defeat to Manchester United.
Billy Barr’s side had lost just twice all season, with both defeats coming at home, and they faced a Manchester United side heading into the match on the back of an impressive 6-3 victory at Liverpool.
Rovers lined up with a relatively young side, as only first-team midfielder Corry Evans was over the age of 20, with a number of the U23 regulars sat out with injury or out on loan.
United named a strong side, which included multi-million pound signing Amad Diallo and the league’s second top scorer Joe Hugill.
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Rovers started strongly at Leigh Sports Village, their former home, and took the lead on 13 minutes as Connor McBride was played through on goal and he made no mistake with a calm left-footed finish past Mastny.
However, the hosts responded well and after Luke Brennan fired high over the bar, United went up the other end and equalised as Hannibal cut inside on his left foot and finished precisely into the left corner.
Rovers got back in control of proceedings and went about restoring their lead, coming close as Harlock went through on goal and was excellently denied by Mastny in the United goal.
But, from the resulting corner, Rovers got their goal as Brennan’s cross was headed home by Sam Barnes.
United weren’t to be deflated however, as they once again responded with an equaliser, with Shola Shoretire side-footing home from Diallo’s pass, leaving the sides level at the break.
The goals kept flying after the break as Rovers took the lead for the third time. Harlock was dragged down in the box for a penalty, and up stepped McBride to fire into the left hand corner.
Just less than two minutes later, Rovers had their fourth goal of the night as Daniel Pike showed some great work down the right hand side to put the ball into the middle and Joe Nolan swept home for his third goal since signing.
But, on 70 minutes, Corry Evans was withdrawn from the match, and the game changed in United’s favour.
Three minutes later, Diallo grabbed his second assist of the evening as his cross was met by the head of Shoretire to give United hope.
It was 4-4 just sixty seconds later as Harvey Neville’s cross was met by Hugill at the back post to head home.
And United completed their comeback on 78 minutes, as Diallo and Shoretire combined again for the latter to complete his hat-trick.
With five minutes left on the clock, United score their sixth to kill the match off as Alvaro Fernandez pulled it back from the byline and Diallo volleyed into the far corner for a deserved goal.
It was a disappointing way to end the U23s’ long unbeaten run in away league fixtures, but the streak is one that Billy Barr, his staff and his players should all be proud of.
Rovers faced a multi-million pound signing in Diallo, and with every player on the pitch aged 19 or under at full-time, it was an impressive showing nevertheless.
The U23s will look to get back to winning ways when they take on Southampton U23s at the Leyland County Ground on Friday 12 February.