Five goals for Rovers U23s saw them emphatically dispatch struggling Southampton U23s this afternoon.
A goal from Sam Burns either side of Joe Nolan’s flick put Rovers in control, before Jayden Smith’s strike for the visitors pulled one back before half-time.
But, the result was never in doubt, and it was confirmed thanks to second-half goals from Louie Annesley and Sam Durrant.
Billy Barr’s side were missing captain Sam Barnes, who was dismissed in the draw with Tottenham last time out.
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However, Rovers were boosted by the return of Dan Pike and Connor McBride, with the duo involved with the first team in recent weeks.
On a boggy surface that had clearly felt the effects of the summer, Rovers took the lead within five minutes. Pike’s persistent pressure saw Joe Nolan pick the ball up and the midfielder found Sam Burns, who took a touch and fired low across Jack Bycroft to put the hosts ahead.
Rovers came close to adding a second soon after as a ball was flashed across the box and Pike met the ball at the back post, and Bycroft gratefully clutched the ball to his chest.
However, the Saints ‘keeper could do little to stop Rovers doubling their lead just a couple of minutes later. Some great work down the right from Pike and Sam Durrant gave Joe Nolan the chance to finish, and he flicked home beautifully for Rovers’ second goal of the afternoon.
It was three for Rovers just ten minutes later as Bycroft aimed to clear the ball up the pitch, but Burns was there to block the clearance, and the ball rebounded in to put Billy Barr’s side in control.
Rovers were pegged back by one goal before the break, however, as Ethan Burnett won the ball back for Southampton and Jayden Smith was there to finish.
The second half was the polar opposite of the first half, with the goals drying up and Rovers controlling proceedings well.
Fifteen minutes from time, Rovers killed off the match as a contest. A short corner saw Lenni Cirino put an inswinging cross into the box and Louie Annesley – captain for the day in Barnes’ absence – was there to finish for Rovers’ fourth of the afternoon.
Rovers weren’t done there either, with Sam Durrant finishing off his own mazy run with a perfectly placed finish for the hosts’ fifth – and final – goal of the afternoon.
In reality, it could have been any number of goals for Rovers with the amount of chances created.
It was a professional performance from the young Rovers, with the result never really in doubt. The width provided by Dan Pike and Lenni Cirino helped Billy Barr’s side overload the Saints, and the overall performance will be a pleasing one for all involved.
Rovers U23s are next in action on Friday evening, as they make the trip to the capital to take on Arsenal U23s, kick off at 7pm.
Rovers: Eastham, Pike (Connolly), Saadi, Annesley, Cirino, Garrett (Harlock), Whitehall, Durrant, Nolan, McBride, Burns
Subs Not Used: Dowling, Baker, Gent
Goals: Burns 5′, 36′, Nolan 25′, Annesley 74′, Durrant 83′