U23: BLACKBURN ROVERS 1-0 SOUTHAMPTON
Premier League 2
Tuesday 20th March
The County Ground, Lancashire FA HQ (PR25 2LF)
A late Jack Evans winner saw Blackburn Rovers extend their lead at the top of the Premier League 2 table to four points.
Evans’ 89th-minute strike, a curling effort from inside the area, came six minutes after Joe Grayson had missed a penalty for the home side.
Blackburn made one change from the starting XI which lost to Aston Villa in the Premier League Cup on Friday, Okera Simmonds replacing the injured Harry Chapman.
They also included trialist Nathan Moore in the squad, the right back having been on Everton’s books since the age of 13.
Rovers' first effort was on 13 minutes, good work from Lewis Travis leading to a cross put in, but John Buckley was unable to divert it home from close range after a deflection.
Travis was again in the action on 18 minutes, his effort easily caught by Southampton ‘keeper Jack Rose.
Matthew Platt made a surging run forward on 22 minutes, threading the ball through to Simmonds, whose shot from the edge of the six yard box was parried by Rose to his left and cleared.
Blackburn continued to pile the pressure on, a free kick on 23 minutes finding the boot of Platt close in but his effort hit the side netting.
A lapse in concentration in the host's defence allowed Siph Mdlalose to rob the ball and charge at goal, his cutback to Nathan Tella eventually leading to the ball being diverted behind for a corner by Tyler Magloire, with the resulting corner coming to nothing.
Blackburn came close to scoring on 31 minutes, beginning with Evans winning the ball back on halfway.
Good work on the edge of the box allowed Evans to get the ball back and shoot, with his shot well saved by the legs of Rose.
Rovers won a free kick in the third minute of added time, Grayson whipping it in but it met the head of a Southampton defender and was cleared.
Damien Johnson's side started the second half positively, their first chance coming on 48 minutes when Travis fired well over from distance.
On 58 minutes Southampton had their first chance of the half, Jake Hesketh playing it through to Olufela Olomola who controlled it well but his effort fizzed wide of the left post.
From then on the game began to develop into a cagy affair, with both teams winning a series of free kicks but none of them threatened either goal.
Blackburn won a penalty on 82 minutes after Evans was tripped in the box, but Grayson’s strike was well saved low to his right by Rose, who repeated his heroics from the cup game against the same opponents two weeks earlier.
Rovers did take the lead their performance deserved in the 89th minute, the seemingly ever-present Evans finally beating Rose by curling one in from the edge of the box.
There was a worry for Blackburn in added time when Lewis Travis went down but he was able to get back onto his feet, the full time whistle sounding soon after to give Johnson’s men a crucial win.
Blackburn Rovers: Fisher, Platt (Thompson, 65), Evans, Doyle, Magloire, Grayson, Buckley, Hardcastle (c), Simmonds, Tomlinson, Travis
Subs not used: Barnes, Albinson, Connolly, Moore
Southampton: Rose, Rowthorn (Klarer, 86), Johnson, Little, Jones (c), O’Driscoll, Mdlalose (Robise 79), Slattery, Olomola, Hesketh, Tella
Subs not used: Latham, Hamblin, Smallbone
Referee: Mr M Edwards