STOCKPORT COUNTY 0, BLACKBURN ROVERS 1
Zak Gilsenan, a young player with a glittering CV, was Blackburn Rovers’ matchwinner in their pre-season victory at Stockport County.
The 20-year-old, who played academy football at both Barcelona and Liverpool, was spot with a penalty as Rovers triumphed at Edgeley Park.
Perth-born Gilsenan, who has represented Australia at U17 and U18 and Eire U19s, also struck the frame of the goal as he showed why he was such a highly rated young player until his career has been derailed by several serious injuries.
It was a night in which the new refereeing directive was trialled with time extra accrued for routine stoppages with referee Matthew Corlett adding an additional 13 minutes – five at the end of the first half and eight in the second – in what was a largely uneventful game.
Corlett also booked five players when a modicum of common sense was required. Goodness what the card count would have been had it been a physical contest.
As this was the first half of a weekend double header for both teams, this was more of a pre-season friendly for squad players.
Managers Dave Challinor and Jan Dahl Thomasson had eyes of warm-up games against Preston North End and Spanish side Girona as their dress rehearsal for next weekend’s kick off for their EFL campaigns.
County fielded only three players – Macauley Southam-Hales, Paddy Madden and Adam Croasdale – from the side which played against Huddersfield Town last weekend.
Rovers, meanwhile, possibly had no players who will start the season with the only squad players on view, goalkeeper Aynsley Pears, brothers Scott and Adam Wharton, Callum Brittain and John Buckley.
Connor Evans forced a diving save from Pears in the11th minute which was as good as it got in a dreary opening.
Indeed, the game only sparked to life in the five minutes of added time at the end of the half.
Rovers left back Jake Batty made a rampaging run down the left from half-way, cut inside and forced keeper Jordan Smith to block his angled effort.
County then had two gilt-edged chances as Tanto Olaofe found himself through on goal only for Pears to spread himself big to make a big block and Madden then saw a drive from distance fly narrowly wide.
The second half saw County take control, creating chances but lacking a cutting edge.
Evans forced a diving save from Pears who also blocked well to deny Trialist B.
There were two glaring misses mid-half when Croasdale, sliding in at the far post, failed to convert Olaofe’s low cross and then Madden completely free at the far post, somehow miscued from little more than one yard from a low left-flank cross from 17-year-old Ashton Mee.
Those missed opportunities came back to bite as Rovers snatched a 71st minute lead when they won a penalty for Akil Wright’s clumsy challenge as he slid in and took out Batty rather than the ball.
Gilsenan sent Smith the wrong way from the spot.
And it might have got worse when County were caught dallying at the back but James Edmondson pulled his shot wide.
Gilsenan almost added a second goal with 10 minutes left when he drove forward and saw a drive from outside the box strike the upright.