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[Archived] News Article -> Match Report: Tranmere Rovers 0 - 2 Blackburn Rovers

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Friday 24th July 2015 – Pre-Season Friendly

Tranmere Rovers 0 v 2 Blackburn Rovers

Tranmere Rovers  (0) 0

Scott Davies (Luke Pilling, 84); Liam Hogan (Mitch Duggan, 75), Ritchie Sutton (Evan Gumbs, 80), MichaelIhiekwe (Jack Fleming, 80), Matt Hill (Trialist, 45); Lois Maynard (Kevin Cringle, 84), Jay Harris (Trialist, 45), Steven Jennings (Ben Jago, 75), Liam Ridehalgh (Eddie Clarke, 75); Cole Stockton (Trialist, 80), Andy Mangan (Trialist, 60).

Manager: Keith Hill

Blackburn Rovers (0) 2

Sarpong 76, Mahoney 81

David Raya; David Carson, Sam Lavelle, Scott Wharton, Jack Doyle; Connor Thomson, Sacha Petshi, Liam Nolan; Jeffrey Sarpong (Luke Wall 77), Anton Forrester (Jordan Preston 46), MaicSema (Connor Mahoney 76).

Subs not used: Andrew Fisher (gk) Lewis Mansell.

Manager: Gary Bowyer

Referee: Mr. B. Johnson

Bookings: None


Football has a habit of lifting the spirits when you least expect it.  Having spent the early afternoon reading the doom and gloom surrounding the Jordan Rhodes interview expressing his wish to be elsewhere, it was with a certain amount of trepidation that one ventured to Prenton Park.  A quick glance at the teamsheet – a mixture of youth and trialists – did little to engender enthusiasm for the ninety minutes which lay ahead.  A couple of hours later we were leaving Prenton Park with spirits well and truly lifted after an excellent performance from the youngsters and some very promising trialists.  It proved, as if we ever doubted it, that if Messrs Rhodes and Gestede depart the world does not come to an end and, more importantly, neither does Blackburn Rovers.  Indeed, on the way home the talk of Rhodes and Gestede which had dominated the outward journey was long forgotten and instead the discussion turned to the promising performances that the youngsters had given.

With a trip to Boundary Park the following day, Gary Bowyer selected a young squad for this game and must have been more than delighted with what he saw.  This was as well as I’ve seen the youngsters play for some time.  The manager opted for a different formation, going 4-3-3, with trialists Jeffrey Sarpong and MaicSema playing on either side of Anton Forrester in a very nimble and pacey front three.  Liam Nolan, Sacha Petshi and Connor Thomson formed an impressive middle three.

The Rovers took the initiative from the off and might well have scored after only five minutes.  SachiPetshi played the ball out to David Carson who had made ground down the wing from full-back.  Carson then whipped in a delightful centre to the back post which was met by the head of MaicSema, but his whilst his effort beat Scott Davies the ball hit the crossbar and rebounded to safety.

Tranmere’s first effort on goal also brought their right-back to the fore but when Liam Hogan burst into the area he lost his head and fired high, wide and not very handsome when he really ought to have done better.

Steven Jennings, on 25 minutes, came closer to breaking the deadlock for the home side but his effort from the edge of the box struck Scott Wharton and deflected wide for a corner which came to nothing.

It was an entertaining game which was played on a fast surface thanks to the pre-match rain.  The Rovers looked comfortable in possession and played their way through midfield with Petschi dominating proceedings.  He displayed a good touch, was comfortable on the ball and used the ball intelligently feeding both wide players and supporting Anton Forrester.  Both Jeffrey Sarpong and MaicSema caught the eye with tricky wing play and both looked to have a fair turn of speed.

Tranmere, in fairness, gave as good as they got and the game was played at fair pace as both sides looked to knock it around on the ground rather than going for long, high balls into the box.

If Petschi was the mainspring of the Rovers midfield then Lois Maynard was the man at the heart of most of the home team’s best moments.  One attempt to catch David Raya out at his near post was easily dealt with by the young Spanish ‘keeper whilst a second attempt soared high over the bar.  On 34 minutes, Maynard whipped in a fierce half-volley which Raya did well to save.

On 43 minutes Sarpong struck a long range shot which Scott Davies saved.

Although goalless, the first forty-five minutes had been a very entertaining affair with the young Rovers side playing some very attractive football.

The home side made a couple of changes after the interval whilst the  Rovers made one change with Jordan Preston replacing Forrester, who appeared to have pick up a knock just before the break.

Within seconds of the restart Preston was presented with a golden opportunity to put the Rovers ahead.  Sema made a good run down the left, cut into the area and then pulled the ball back for Preston who blazed his effort over the bar from close range.

A minute later Preston was involved in what seemed a nasty incident with Michael Ihiekwe.  The Tranmere defender stooped low to head the ball just as Preston turned to volley it but fortunately, after treatment to a head injury, the defender was able to continue.

A flowing move by the home side on 52 minutes ended with the ever-dangerous Maynard having another shot at goal which Raya dealt with.

Both sides were playing some quick, incisive, one-touch football which was easy on the eye and providing plenty of entertainment for the fans of both sides.

Sarprong got on the end of a through ball which caught out the home defence but, with Carson calling for a pass on the outside, the trialist went for glory and fired over the bar.

Tranmere started to push the Rovers back a little more and Cole Stockton blasted a good chance over the bar.

However, on 63 minutes the Rovers really ought to have taken the lead after excellent work on the right by Semawhich saw his low cross reach an unmarked Sarpong on the opposite post.  Sadly, the winger side-footed wide from about four yards out.

Fortunately, the youngster made amends on 76 minutes.  The Rovers worked the ball in and around the Tranmere penalty area with a number of intricate passes before the ball was pulled back to Sarpong on the edge of the area.  His well struck shot completely wrong-footed Davies and with the aid of a possible slight deflection it flew into the back of the net.

The goal was the signal for more changes to be made by both sides but it was the Rovers who continued to dominate possession with their midfield trio looking stronger and stronger as the game went on.

On 81 minutes the Rovers clinched the match with a lovely goal.  Mahoney, who had looked very lively after replacing Sarpong, played a delightful one-two then cut inside, leaving the full-back in his wake, and as he moved into the area from the left he drilled a well struck shot into the bottom corner of the net with Davies well beaten.

Three minutes later Nolan played in Thomson but he rolled his shot just wide whilst three minutes from the end Carson went on a good run, cut inside the area but fired over after his first effort had been blocked.

Gary Bowyer will no doubt have been highly delighted to see the progress that many of these youngsters are making and the performances of the trialists will have given him food for thought.  With the restrictions which the club are now under it is going to be a difficult balancing act to sign the players who will bring sufficient versatility to the club and improve the quality of the squad.  However, nights like this leave you feeling that Armageddon may not be around the corner just yet.

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