Jack Vale has been on the periphery for Rovers Under-23s in recent seasons - but there will be high hopes this can be a real breakthrough season.

With Joe Nuttall, top scorer in Premier League 2 football in 2017/18, having moved on to Blackpool, and Dan Butterworth, a source of goals in the last campaign having progressed to the first-team set-up, Vale looks set to be the go-to man in attack this term.

It is easy to forget, given he's a prospect spoken of for so long, that he's not even halfway in to his 19th year.

Capped for Wales at Under-19s and Under-17s level, he netted five times for Rovers in Premier League 2 football last term and while versatile enough to play across the front three positions, given the make-up of the current squad, the No.9 shirt looks his for the season.

There will be hopes he can build on that this term, and both physically and technically, he looks to have matured.

Arsenal used the opportunity to hand minutes to Rob Holding, a player the Gunners sees as a key part of their Premier League plans once fully fit. But he won't have enjoyed his evening up against Vale whose intelligent play helped create several good openings for his team-mates.

Just five minutes were on the watch when he spun his marker and rolled it through for Lewis Thompson whose shot was inches wide of the far post and the sliding Stefan Mols.

Even better work just after the half hour saw him roll Holding and play in Luke Brennan, only for him to shoot over, while the same combination linked up to good effect moments later, only for the Rovers winger to drag his shot wide.

It was the second time in recent weeks he has ruffled the feathers of Premier League defenders having had an excellent afternoon in a behind-closed doors game with Burnley, their defence on that afternoon containing Ben Gibson and Charlie Taylor.

The second half was just three minutes old when Vale spun Holding, drawing a smart low save from the 'keeper before heading wide a Thompson cross from the next attack.

Full of running, he was able to hold off two defenders, at a time, but does at times need to be able to hold his runs when run beyond the back four.

Holding's night was done after 63 minutes, and by that time Vale began to tire, but the Arsenal man certainly knew he'd been in a game.

Vale was not alone for Rovers, with Brad Lyons, back after finishing the season with St Mirren, combative as ever in the midfield of the park, and having added more of a passing threat to his game as well.

There was an inexperienced look to the Rovers side, without several of the regulars who led them to fifth last season, but they stuck at their task in a hardworking performance.

In the end, three penalties from Folarin Balogun, the final two coming in the 82nd and 94th minutes and the first a rebound after his initial effort had been saved, gave the scoreline a harsh look as the Gunners were 3-1 winners.

Joe Hilton, signed from Everton, started in goal, with Gibraltar international Louie Annesley and Sam Barnes alongisde captain Charley Doyle in a three-man defence.

They worked hard out of possession to try and restrict an Arsenal side keen to play one-twos on the edge of the box, only to be crowded out.

It was on the break that Rovers had plenty of success though and that's how the opening goal came about. Brad Lyons, booked for a late tackle moments before, played one of several eye-catching through-balls to put Stefan Mols clear and he calmly slotted in to the far corner.

The lead didn't last for long, however. Folarin Balogun was brought down by Doyle, and although the striker saw his penalty saved, he was on hand to turn home the rebound.

Brennan missed two good chances for Rovers, with the half ending with Barnes testing the handling of James Hillson with a shot from distance.

As Vale had two chances at the start of the second half, at the other end, Balogun looked the pick of the bunch for Arsenal, skipping inside Andrew Jackson before Doyle came across to block.

Both sides had chances to take the lead as the game ticked in to the final quarter. Arsenal full back Zak Swanson should have done better when firing wide from eight yards, while Brennan's touch took him a little wide when clear of the defence, with Hillson saving his shot at the near post.

Hilton was drawn in to a save at the other end, but nothing more than a routine stop to deny Nathan Tormey's strike. He had to show smart foot movement though to backtrack when Barnes sliced towards his own goal.

With eight minutes to go came a late sting in the tail for Rovers. Full back Swanson put Balogun through with a smart pass, with Hilton hauling the striker down as he tried to round him.

The England youth international picked himself up and smashed the spot-kick down the middle.

Two penalties became three in the fourth minute of added time as after Trae Coyle was adjudged to have been pulled down by Barnes, Balogun slotted calmly in to the corner. 

Rovers: Hilton, Jackson, Barnes, Doyle, Annesley, Thompson, Lyons, Whitehall, Brennan, Mols (Burns, 58), Vale

Subs: Saadi, Eastham, Garrett, Boyomo