Billy Barr admits it was a ‘smash and grab’ from his side as they began their Premier League 2 campaign with a last-gasp victory against Manchester City.

Lewis Thompson swept home a Stefan Mols free kick in the sixth minute of added time, after City goalkeeper James Trafford had been sent off, to give Barr’s side a winning start.

They had to come from behind, trailing at the break to a fine James McAtee strike in the 27th minute, before an improve display after the break saw Connor McBride equalise on his first outing since a summer move from Celtic.

Jordan Eastham made two fine saves, one in either half, to keep City at bay on what was a night of hard graft for Barr’s youngster.

“In the end you probably say it’s a smash and grab but you get the opportunity to smash and grab when you stay in the game," said Barr.

“There’s a minimum start for anyone who puts a Blackburn Rovers shirt on and that’s hard work.

“At times, if we’re guilty of not doing that we’ll overlook that if we’re getting cohesion, connection, shots at goal, but we’ll always go back to the need to work hard.

“They’re going to take time, they’re young first year pros learning about a different style of football against far greater opposition than they’ve ever come across.”

Rovers wanted to add to their forward line at Under-23s level this summer, and had expected Tyrhys Dolan to offer them that, only for him to make a breakthrough at first-team level early in the season.

McBride is expected to supplement the attacking positions, and played just off striker Sam Burns who enjoyed a fine pre-season infront of goal.

And Barr added: “Connor McBride, we’ve found him going away from goal more than going towards goal, and it was pleasing that he ended up in the box and it was a good finish.

“It was his first game with us, we know he’ll take time to get him fit, we knew that, but if we can get him in and around the box, we’ve seen he’s got quality at his feet. It was a positive start.

“The second goal, I thought the through ball was quality, Burnsy gets wiped out by the ‘keeper, the lads then take ownership of the situation and create something to win us the game, although we nearly gave it back to them straight after that, Jordan with a save to keep it as a positive result.”

Rovers struggled to create opportunities in what was a competitive, yet largely uneventful, first period.

However, the game came to light in the final 20 minutes, with McBride equalising after a quick free kick fell his way, while it was another set piece in the dying second which allowed Rovers to snatch victory.

“It was frustrating first half, we kept giving the ball back to them too easily, the last five minutes of the first half was probably our best period,” Barr explained.

“We spoke to them at half time and I thought they were a lot better in the second half.

“The pleasing thing is you show them things about the opposition, give them pictures, and they go out there with the freedom to create their own pictures and they did that for the winning goal.

“That’s credit to the group for recognising it and then executing it.”

City made Rovers work hard to gain possession all night, but Barr felt the second half was much more like it from his players.

He said: “You have to work hard against Man City because they work hard both ways as well.

“They’re a really, really good team, and I’m sure we’ll see some of their players gracing the Premier League in years to come.

“Second half is close to how we want our lads to perform, we had a link in midfield, we played through the lines and created more opportunities.”