CONNOR McBride scored the only goal as Rovers opened their pre-season campaign with a 1-0 win at National League North side AFC Fylde.

Tony Mowbray fielded two separate XIs as expected on a day a side made up primarily of Under-18s was also in action in a 5-4 win at Darwen.

The Under-23s were needed on the Fylde coast due to the number of Rovers absentees, as the visiting fans got a first look at their side in person since February 2020.

Adam Armstrong was the glaring name not on the team-sheet while Thomas Kaminski was at Mill Farm but did not play with Jordan Eastham and Antonis Stergiakis playing 45 minutes each in goal as Aynsley Pears was another absentee.

Sam Gallagher’s injury, Ben Brereton’s absence after his Chile exploits and a knock for Tyrhys Dolan saw Sam Burns lead the line in the first half flanked by the lively Harry Chapman and Luke Brennan, in action against a club he spent some time on loan with last season.

It was another youthful attacking set-up in the second period, McBride and Sam Durrant flanking Jack Vale with Dan Butterworth in behind.

At the back there was a bright first Rovers appearance for Harry Pickering in the opening 45 minutes,  with Darragh Lenihan missing after his partner gave birth.

Ryan Nyambe played after the interval with Lewis Travis and Jacob Davenport sitting in front of the back four.

Rovers controlled the first period without breaking the deadlock.

The game stopped in the 11th minute to pay tribute to Luke Bennett, the former AFC Fylde Academy player who passed away earlier this year. His dad Tom works in the Rovers Academy.

Dan Pike made a promising start, bursting down the right to provide for Bradley Johnson who had an effort blocked, his afternoon shortlived however as he hobbled off after half an hour.

Brennan was then denied by Chris Neal when free in the box with Chapman proving to be a real threat in his first Rovers outing since his impressive loan spell at Shrewsbury.

John Buckley also went close with one rasping shot from distance.

Fylde were the first to go close after the interval with Nick Haughton thumping a free-kick against the post before Davenport sent one narrowly wide at the other end. The midfielder was then booked for a tasty challenge.

Butterworth showed what a handful he can be at times in a quiet second half with Rovers hoping he can steer clear of injury this season.

McBride then brought the game to life with the opening goal on 73 minutes.

Rovers would probably have had a penalty after Sam Durrant went down in the box but referee David McNamara pulled the whistle away from his mouth, playing an advantage that allowed McBride to finish emphatically.

Fylde responded well to going behind and pushed Rovers back before Vale came close to adding a second for Mowbray’s men, dragging a shot not far wide.

First half: Eastham, Pike, Carter, Barnes, Pickering, Buckley, Johnson (Nolan 32), Rothwell, Brennan, Chapman, Burns.

Second half: Stergiakis, Nyambe, Saadi, Annesley, Whitehall, Davenport, Travis, Butterworth, Vale (Nolan 87), McBride, Durrant.