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Lucas Neill given chance in Blackburn Rovers under 21 game
1:19pm Wednesday 12th February 2014 in Sport
LUCAS Neill was given the chance to impress watching Blackburn Rovers boss Gary Bowyer as the club’s U21 team ended their losing run.
Neill was part of the Rovers side which twice came from behind to draw 2-2 with Tottenham Hotspur in Monday’s U21s Premier League clash.
The Australia skipper was a late inclusion in Eric Kinder’s starting line-up after being given permission to play in the game.
Neill has been back training at Rovers since December.
But the Leigh Sports Village encounter was the first time that Bowyer has had the opportunity to see the 35-year-old in competitive action.
Neill, who produced an accomplished display alongside Ryan Edwards at centre-back, has been without a club following his release from Japanese outfit Omiya Ardija in November.
He has been told by Australia head coach Ange Postecoglou that he must find a new club before March if he is to captain his country at this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
Neill has already gone on record to say he would like to re-sign for Rovers. But Bowyer has so far kept an open mind about whether to offer the defender a short-term deal.
Monday’s match also marked Corry Evans’ comeback from long-term injury and Bryan Dabo’s first competitive outing for the club since signing on loan from Montpellier.
Evans, who has spent the best part of four months on the sidelines with ankle-ligament damage, lasted just over an hour.
But fellow midfielder Dabo, who showed flashes of promise operating just off the main striker, played the full 90 minutes, as did Neill.
Spurs took the lead in the 39th minute when a free kick into the box was only partially cleared and Ruben Lameiras sent a sweetly stuck left-footed shot in off the post from 20 yards.
That was the way it stayed until nine minutes from time when Dean Rittenberg combined with fellow substitute Will Beesley to equalise.
Beesley did brilliantly to thread a pass through to Rittenberg and the England U18s new boy did the rest, sliding a cool left-footed finish under Jordan Archer to register his first goal at U21s level.
But three minutes later Spurs went back in front as Shaquile Coulthirst turned a Laste Dombaxe free kick in at the near post.
Three minutes after that, however, parity was restored. A free kick from Connor Mahoney caused chaos in the box and Aaron Tumwa was credited with getting the goal that ended Kinder’s side’s four-match losing run in all competitions.
Rovers U21s boss Kinder said: “I’m absolutely delighted with them, particularly in the second half.
“It has been a long season for us but you can finally see signs of the way that I want to play and my philosophy on the game.”