Our U18 side fell to a 4-2 defeat against Bristol Rovers, with goals from Josh Williams and Michael Cook not enough to stop the Young Exiles from slipping to their first defeat since the 11th of November.
The Pirates picked up all three points with Jordan Carey, Lucas Tomlinson, Tom Mehew and Alfie Clarke scoring for the away side in a disappointing defeat for Byron Anthony’s side.
Bristol Rovers started the game well, with captain Jordan Carey finding himself with a clear one-on-one opportunity in front of ‘keeper Callum Brain in the 2nd minute, but the forward was rightly ruled offside. Lucas Tomlinson saw a shot blocked by County full-back Joe Hunt two minutes later, as the away side looked to break the deadlock.
The Young Exiles responded to the early pressure brilliantly and eventually won a corner after Lewis Collins had a chance parried out by Rovers goalkeeper Armstrong with seven minutes played. The corner came to nothing however, with Evan Press’ cross evading everyone and going out of play.
It would be County who broke the deadlock, with Josh Williams scoring his third goal in as many games as the home side took advantage of a lapse in concentration by Rovers in the 11th minute after Williams and Cook’s relentless running was too much for Bristol’s backline to deal with.
The away side equalized soon after, Rovers’ captain Carey leveled the scores with 14 minutes played at Dragon Park.
Byron Anthony’s side took the initiative in the game after Callum Beckett had to make two brilliant blocks inside County’s box to prevent the visitors from going ahead in the 23rd minute. Collins saw a speculative long-distance effort saved by Armstrong before Michael Cook saw a dangerous shot blocked by Rovers with fourteen minutes left in the first half.
Neither side had any major chances from that point onwards, and County went into the break drawing 1-1 despite being the better side after conceding in the 14th minute.
The visitors found an all-important goal two minutes into the second half, with Lucas Tomlinson unleashing a powerful strike into the top corner from 20 yards-out, leaving Brain helpless in the 47th minute.
County’s Murray received a yellow card for a rash challenge in the 50th minute; Alfie Clarke stepped up to take the set-piece and calmly finished past Brain after getting his shot over the County wall to make it 3-1 to Rovers.
The visitors further compiled a miserable ten minutes for the Young Exiles, with Tom Mehew grabbing Rovers’ fourth goal of the match for Tom Parrinello’s side in the 54th minute of the game.
A minute later, Tom Savigar produced a powerful header, which seemed certain to reduce the deficit, but it was brilliantly caught by Armstrong, who was in fine form throughout the match for the Pirates.
Byron Anthony made a double substitution as the Young Exiles looked to grab a goal back, with Evan Press and Josh Williams making way for Liam Warman and Owen Taylor with 58 minutes played.
Yet again, Bristol Rovers goalkeeper Armstrong made a phenomenal save, stopping Collins’ header from close range with twenty minutes left at Dragon Park.
Despite soaking up the pressure from the Young Exiles, Parrinello’s side eventually crumbled, with Michael Cook scoring to reduce the deficit to two goals in the 73rd minute of the game. Cook took advantage of a crowded Rovers’ box and with some help from a deflection, he bundled the ball into the back of the net.
The Pirates made their first change in the 76th minute with George Fowler making way for Mason Raymond.
County’s last real chance fell to Collins, who couldn’t quite direct his shot on target, with his strike just drifting wide in the 81st minute.
The home side made two more changes in the 83rd and 84th minute, with Owura Edwards and Liam Bishop coming on for Tom Savigar and Michael Cook.
Despite this, the Young Exiles couldn’t pull a goal back and slipped to a 4-2 defeat at Dragon Park on Saturday, 2nd December.
Up next for Byron Anthony’s side is a home fixture against Portsmouth this weekend, with full details set to be released later in the week.
County Starting XI: Brain, Jay Williams, Hunt (c), Savigar (Edwards 83’), Beckett, Murray, Collins, Press (Taylor 58’), Cook (Bishop 84’), Josh Williams (Warman 58’), Hillman.
Players Booked: Lucas Murray (50’).
Subs Not Used: Jay Williams Jnr.
Bristol Rovers Starting XI: Armstrong, Isherwood, Clarke, Mehew, Bailey, Bremner, Holbert, Fowler (Raymond 76’), Crawford, Tomlinson, Carey (c).
Subs Not Used: Jack Rockett, Graeme Anderson, Luca Hoole, Ben Jones.