BLACKBURN Rovers were crowned the Under 19 champions of England last night after a superb defensive display saw them win this national play-off final.

Villa's hopes of overturning a 5-3 first leg deficit were dashed by a magnificent Rovers rearguard superbly marshalled by the outstanding Alex Bruce and Jon Fitzgerald.

Bruce and Fitzgerald both had to be on top form to snuff out a Villa attack which had been bolstered by the return of England Under 20 international Stefan Moore.

But the visitors had heroes all over the park on the night as they showed tremendous resolve to gain the result they needed.

Although Kieron Renton was called on to make a number of key saves during the evening, Villa never seriously threatened a repeat of the goal-feast seen in the first leg five days ago.

"It was a great professional performance," purred team boss Rob Kelly.

"The lads were disappointed to concede three goals in the first leg because we've prided ourselves on a our defensive record all season.

"So we'd worked on that for the last couple of days and we knew that if we kept a clean sheet and avoided defeat then we'd go on to win it.

"We defended well throughout the team -- from the frontmen through to the back four."

Rovers picked up from where they left off in the first leg with a lively opening 10 minutes.

Paul Gallagher had a shot charged down after 30 seconds then the 18-year-old striker just failed to get a telling connection on a Jerome Watt centre.

But Villa also looked threatening going forward and an inviting cross from the speedy Moore just evaded Mika Aaritalo at the far post with Renton well beaten.

Only a last-gasp interception from James O'Connor then prevented Jemal Johnson from firing the visitors ahead following more impressive work by the industrious Gallagher.

But gradually Villa got on top and Renton had to make a point-blank save from Aaritalo before Steven Davis then blazed over after the Rovers keeper had spilled a swirling centre.

With half-time approaching, the visitors were forced into a reshuffle as Michael Cole limped off with an injury but they continued to defend with great resilience after the break.

Renton had to react sharply to keep out a drive from bustling winger Peter Hynes, then a last-ditch block from Danny Whelan denied Alan Brazil after the Villa striker had been teed up by fellow sub Amadou Kouman.

The woodwork then came to Rovers rescue in the 75th minute when Kouman struck the post with an instinctive effort.

But for all Villa's late pressure, they couldn't find a way past Renton as Rovers held firm.

VILLA: Henderson, O'Connor, Stuart, Cormell, Ridgewell, Whittingham, Husbands, Davis, Moore, Aaritalo, Hynes. Subs: Marshall (for Husbands, 54), Brazil (for Cormell, 65), Kouman (for Aaritalo, 65) Not used: Ennis, Yarnold

ROVERS: Renton, Cole, Whelan, Donnelly, Fitzgerald, Bruce, Watt, Harkins, Gallagher, Johnson, Morgan. Subs: Martin (for Cole, 32), Bell (for Johnson, 70), Corvino (for Harkins, 87) Not used: Black, Nelson, Drench


(Rovers win 5-3 on aggregate)