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Tranmere knock Under-21s out of Trophy

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Ben Ibson

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An entertaining first half saw United go a goal down after only 40 seconds. The Under-21s were quick to bounce back, however, and turned things around, only for the home side to equalise before the break.

The second half was overshadowed by serious-looking injuries to Reece Devine and Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, which caused lengthy delays. Frustrations boiled over at the end, and the Reds finished the game with 10 men when Deji Sotona was sent off.

Angel Gomes captained the young Reds at Prenton Park.

Ethan Laird, Di’Shon Bernard, Ethan Galbraith and D’Mani Mellor were in the side after making their debuts for the first team against Astana, last Thursday. Chong also started after Europa League football alongside captain Angel Gomes.

Tranmere began the game quickly and almost instantly scored the opening goal. A lapse in concentration from the United defence, as a throw-in was taken, allowed Hepburn-Murphy to calmly strike the ball past Matej Kovar from close range.

After a shaky start, United began to control the pace of the game and, in the ninth minute, Chong fired home the equaliser. The winger, who celebrated his 20th birthday this week, skillfully escaped his marker on the edge of the area and struck a low shot that flew into the bottom right-corner of Luke Pilling’s goal.

Neil Wood's team took the lead on the half-hour mark, as the ball fell nicely for Mellor ,who miscued his first attempt but then calmly found Chong, who gently curved the ball into the back of the net with his magical left foot.

Ten minutes later, Rovers found an equaliser out of nowhere. A free-kick on the halfway line was launched into the box by Callum Woods and found Connor Jennings, who powerfully struck home through a mass of bodies.

United were quick out of the blocks in the second half but play was halted almost straight-away due to an injury to Hepburn-Murphy who was replaced by Corey Blackett-Taylor.Blackett-Taylor made an instant impact as regained the lead for Tranmere by getting on the end of Kane Wilson’s cross to notch what proved to be the winner. Pressure from Rovers led to a powerful run down the right-hand side by the full-back who cut it back perfectly for Blackett to finish – despite Kovar getting down to the shot.In the 70th minute, Devine left the pitch on a stretcher after receiving treatment on the field for almost 10 minutes. Hopefully, the full-back makes a quick recovery.As play resumed. Chong again looked the most dangerous threat for United, twisting inside and outside of his marker and forcing a smart save from the Rovers keeper in the 75th minute.The injuries to both sides had an effect on the game and slowed the pace down, resulting in both sides finding it difficult to create any opportunities towards the end. Just when Neil Wood was calling for some magic on the sidelines, Chong went down inside the box but no penalty was forthcoming.

Ethan Laird tries to get a cross in from the right.

Some 15 minutes were added on for injury time and United brought on Sotona to replace Mark Helm, in hope of sparking a comeback and staying in the competition.Frustrations began to show between players from both sides, resulting in the exit of Sotona, as he was shown the red card shortly after making his debut in the competition. The referee made his decision after a coming together between the United striker and Rovers defender Sid Nelson.Despite dominating the late play, United were unable to overcome the Rovers defence for the third time. signally the Under-21s' exit from the Trophy, with plenty of experience picked up along the way.


Ben Ibson

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