A disappointing 4-2 defeat against Chelsea brought the curtain down this afternoon on an otherwise positive season for Rovers U23s.
Henry Lawrence’s first-half brace put the visitors in control at the break. Sam Durrant gave Rovers hope after the break, but that was short-lived as Bryan Fiabema restored Chelsea’s two-goal lead soon after.
Sam Burns then gave Rovers a lifeline with twenty minutes to go, but just two minutes later, Harvey Vale was on hand to restore the visitors’ two goal lead.
Billy Barr made three changes from the side that lost to Chelsea in last week’s reverse fixture, with Jalil Saadi, Sam Durrant and Jared Harlock all coming into the side.
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Daniel Ayala and Dan Butterworth came out the side, with the duo expected to feature in tomorrow’s first team fixture, whilst Louie Annesley dropped to the bench.
Rovers started the brighter of the two sides, and after a lively opening ten minutes, Isaac Whitehall found Sam Burns in behind the opposition defence, but the forward saw his effort saved well by Lucas Bergstrom.
Chelsea, who had started the match quite slowly, had their first chance after 22 minutes as George Nunn misjudged a ball across the box, and then Lawrence fired over.
The tempo slowly drifted in the match, but it was quickly brought back to life eight minutes before the break as Lawrence was found in the box, and he finished well past Eastham.
The visitors’ lead was doubled just before the break as Lawrence fired past Eastham again to double his and Chelsea’s tally for the day at half-time.
Rovers responded well after the break and got themselves a goal back within three minutes. Durrant picked up the ball around twenty yards out and fired into the roof of the net to give the hosts a platform to get level.
Unfortunately for Rovers, it took just seven minutes for Chelsea to restore their two-goal advantage as Fiabema was played through on goal, and he fired under Eastham to score.
Rovers then went in search of a lifeline in the match, which came twenty minutes from time. Some good work from Connor McBride saw him cross to Burns, and the Rovers forward brought the ball down brilliantly on his chest before finishing into the opposition goal to cut the visitors’ lead to just one goal.
However, it took just two minutes for Chelsea to restore their two goal advantage once more, as the impressive Harvey Vale ran through on goal and finished past Eastham, handing the visitors all three points.
Chelsea’s ruthlessness, combined with defensive frailties from the hosts, means it is six without victory for the U23s at the end of the season, with Rovers finishing fourth in the Premier League 2 table – barring Manchester United winning by six goals against Derby on Monday.
However, in a season that saw a title challenge that only faded out in the last few weeks of the season, Rovers have shown they are more than capable of matching any side in the Premier League 2.
The players will now go on their summer break before returning in July ahead of the new season, with a number of contract decisions still unknown.
Rovers: Eastham, Pike, Barnes (c), Saadi (Annesley 66′), Cirino (Nolan 63′), Whitehall, Garrett, Harlock, Durrant (Gilsenan 74′), McBride, Burns
Subs not used: Stergiakis, Gent.
Goals: Durrant 48′, Burns 71′
Chelsea: Bergstrom, Mbuyamba, Colwill (Humphreys 79′), Sterling, Bate (Firth 85′), McEachran, Lawrence (c), McClelland (Fiabema 43′), Peart-Harris, Nunn, Vale
Subs not used: Wady, Webster
Goals: Lawrence 37′, 45′, Faibema 55′, Vale 73′
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