Tranmere Rovers U18s produced a clinical first half display to set up a comprehensive 4-0 victory away against Rochdale in the EFL Youth Alliance League.
Strikes from Jake Burton, Ethan Gouldbourne and a Dale own goal gave Rovers a three-goal lead at the break. Ryan Stratulis rounded off the scoring in the second half to ensure consecutive league triumphs for TRFC.
Rovers flew out of the traps fashioning their first chance, just two minutes in at Stalybridge Celtic FC’s stadium. Burton showed great awareness to play through his strike partner Jacob Walton who hit narrowly wide.
With Andy Parkinson’s side in the ascendancy looking a constant goal threat with Kyle Hayde firing just over from range, the breakthrough seemed inevitable.
This proved to be the case in the 24th minute, when Tranmere struck their opening goal. Stratulis showed great tenacity to beat his full-back out wide and picked out Burton. The forward worked himself a yard and placed home into the bottom corner with his left foot.
Ten minutes later and the lead was doubled. Harrison Musuamba rose above his marker from a corner and his powerful header was parried by the Rochdale Keeper. Fellow centre-back, Gouldbourne, was in the right place to slot into the empty net.
Tranmere’s threat from set-pieces remained apparent after an inch-perfect George Nugent corner found Hayde unmarked who rattled the crossbar on the volley.
There was rare scare on the Rovers goal when the Dale striker mistimed an effort in front of goal in the 42nd minute. Almost immediately after, miscommunication between the Rochdale defender and keeper resulted in an unfortunate own-goal.
Following the restart, chances seemed harder to come by for Rovers despite the youngsters retaining control of the game.
This soon changed on the hour mark. Following a long throw in on the half-way line by Lewis Sinnott, the ball fell to Burton in space who weighted his pass expertly to Stratulis. The winger made no mistake one-on-one with the keeper as he hammered it in.
With 71 minutes on the clock, TRFC nearly made it five. After Walton’s effort was well-saved, substitute, Cameron Ferguson, followed in but was unlucky to see his effort blocked behind for a corner.
The hosts showed spirit as they searched for a consolation. Substitute keeper, Joe Bickerstaffe, first saved with his feet to deny a certain goal before diving at full stretch in the 84th minute – preserving a valuable clean sheet.
The U18s play Morecambe at The Campus next weekend as they look to make it three wins on the bounce.
TRFC Line Up: Jones, Badhawi, Musuamba, Gouldbourne, Sinnott, Nugent, Blackham, Hayde, Stratulis, Burton, Walton
Used Subs: Ferguson, Farley, Shead, Quinn, Bickerstaffe