Our Development Squad lost their Central League Cup Semi Final (South) tie this afternoon following a dramatic penalty shootout at the GFA.
This afternoon’s match was a close affair, especially in the opening period when Rhys Kavanagh scored from the only chance of the first half.
In a much more open second half Alfie Kilgour added a second Rovers goal with 18 minutes remaining but Southend pulled a goal back six minutes later, through Dan Walker, to set up a grandstand finish that saw Tom Clifford equalise in the final minute from a free-kick, as both sides finish the encounter with ten men.
The penalty shootout saw the sides match each other with Rovers penalties scored by Michael Kelly, Kris Owens, James Spruce and Rhys Kavanagh, and Southend responding through Sonny Coutts, Tom Clifford, Renei Bartowska and Dan Walker.
Kilgour, who had played well at the heart of defence, sent his spot kick wide of the mark, though, allowing Joe Bedford the opportunity to win the game for the visitors and he comfortably beat Thom Jonkerman to send his side through to the final where they will meet MK Dons or Bristol City.
Skipper Alfie Kilgour, who yesterday joined Hungerford Town on loan, made an early clearance when intercepting a ball in from the right.
Rovers’ first foray into the Southend half almost brought a goal Rhys Kavanagh and Scott Isherwood worked the ball out to Isaac Pearce out on the right and his cross to the back post was headed just wide by Kavanagh.
Although the game was being played at a high tempo, chances were few and far between, though Southend did threaten again down the right on the ten minute mark but Connor Jones was on hand to clear a Michael Klass ball into the box.
The visitors created a half chance on 18 minutes but Amadou Ba’s shot from the edge of the area was charged down by Kilgour. Klass tried his luck again with 25 minutes on the clock but his ferocious angled drive flew over the bar.
The deadlock was broken on 31 minutes when Pearce threaded a delightful ball through to Kavanagh and he took the ball round goalkeeper Josh Bexon before slotting the ball into an empty net.
There were no further chances, for either side, before the break and Rovers comfortably held on to their one goal advantage.
Southend were first to threaten after the break but an ambitious overhead from Lewis Gard was safely gathered by Andre Alexis.
Kilgour then blocked another shot from Klass on the edge of the area as the visitors went in search of an equaliser. There were then three Southend efforts in quick succession.
Rovers’ shot stopper Alexis saved well from Klass but could only parry his fierce drive as far as Renei Batlowka whose shot was blocked. The rebound from that effort reached Gard, whose shot was also blocked.
That block led to a Rovers counter attack that saw Kavanagh chase a long through ball, heading just wide as Bexon came off his line to clear.The keeper collided with the Rovers striker and was only able to continue after a lengthy spell of treatment.
Rovers doubled their lead on 66 minutes with another excellent goal when Kris Owens delivered a superb cross in from the right and Kilgour reacted before anyone else to plant a firm header past Bexon.
The visitors thought they had won a penalty when Alexis rushed off his line to clear a through ball on 70 minutes. He and Batlowka went down in a heap in the area and the ball went behind off of the keeper. Although surrounded by Southend players demanding a spot kick, the referee simply awarded a corner.
The visitors pulled a goal back on 78 minutes when Batlowka saw his drive parried away by Alexis and Dan Walker picked up the rebound and finished with a thundering drive.
The goal signalled a spell of pressure from the visitors but they were thwarted by a resolute Rovers defence.
There was even an opportunity for a third goal, but an Owens free-kick was blocked by Southend’s defensive wall.
There was late drama, though, as Southend scored again with virtually the last kick of the game, when Tom Clifford curled a free kick over the wall and high into the net.
In the melee that followed the goal, Alexis and Southend’s Klass were both red carded.
Both sides scored their first four penalties in the shootout, but as Kilgour missed his attempt in Rovers' final penalty, Joe Bedford slotted home the winning penalty.
BRISTOL ROVERS: Andre Alexis, Scott Isherwood, Alfie Kilgour, Josh Bailey, Michael Kelly, Tom Mehew, Connor Jones, Isaac Pearce (Trialist) (Trialist 1, 88) (Thom Jonkerman, 90), Kris Owens, Cameron Ebbutt (James Spruce, 72), Rhys Kavanagh
Substitutes: Thom Jonkerman, Trialist 1, Trialist 2, Lucas Tomlinson
BRISTOL ROVERS 2 - Kavanagh (31), Kilgour (66)
SOUTHEND UNITED 2 - Walker (78),Clifford (90)
(Southend win 5-4 on penalties.)