Folarin Balogun’s 90th minute goal gave 10-man Arsenal victory on an action-packed night at Leyland.

Rovers will be left wondering quite how they managed to lose a game that they had previously looked out of at half-time.

Goals from Mika Biereth and Omari Hutchinson had given the visitors a 2-0 cushion but the game turned on a red card for Brooke Norton-Cuffy for deliberate handball.

The comeback started with a Sam Burns header on the hour before Connor McBride converted from the spot to draw Rovers level.

They missed a host of chances to take the lead before conceding in the 90th minute and then finishing the game with 10 men themselves as Dan Pike was sent off for kicking out.

Aynsley Pears was given a run-out between the sticks, only a second outing of any type for the ‘keeper who missed out in pre-season due to a back injury and has been unused for the first-team since his return to fitness.

He made a string of important stops, including two to deny Folarin Balogun and an even better one-handed save to keep out a Charlie Rekik strike.

Mike Sheron named an attacking team spearheaded by top scorer Sam Burns who was back from his loan spell at FC United of Manchester.

He had the first chance of the game six minutes in but when slipped in by Sam Durrant his left foot shot could only find the side-netting.

Pears’ first save of the night came to deny England Under-21 international Folarin Balogun, the ‘keeper getting down low to make a routine stop from the attacker’s half volley after being teed up by Mika Biereth from Joel Lopez’s cross.

Arsenal, in their 3-4-3 shape, began to take control of possession but Rovers were denied an opening goal on the break as the linesman raised his flag moments before Jared Harlock fired home from close range.

Harlock, booked for failing to retreat from a free kick, was in the thick of the action and teed up Joe Ferguson who lined up a shot from distance, one Ovie Ejeheri was happy to see flashed wide with him rooted to the spot.

Pears was then tested and came up with a fine one-handed to keep the score level on the half hour mark. Balogun was in down the left and fired a shot across Pears, but the ‘keeper was down quickly to his left to palm the strike to safety.

Fellow attacker Biereth did find a way beyond the Rovers ‘keeper though as he opened the scoring in the 33rd minute. Controlling a Joel Lopez cross, his shot on the turn from eight yards out found the bottom corner with Pears unmoved.

Pears did come to the rescue two minutes later though as Arsenal played on as Rovers waited for an offside flag, Omari Hutchinson cutting onto his left foot but his shot was too close to the ‘keeper who held on.

Burns was becoming more isolated in attack and Arsenal were starting to turn the screw and somehow failed to add to their tally when first Biereth was denied a second by a goal-line clearance from George Pratt after rounding Pears who then produced a stunning one-handed stop to deny Omar Rekik’s effort from close range.

A glut of chances before the break did bring a second goal, one owing much to the individual quality of Hutchinson. He broke into space before firing off an unstoppable left foot shot from 25 yards which nestled in the roof of the net.

Rovers needed a response at the start of the second half as they emerged unchanged. They threatened first, a crunching challenge from Burns set up Harlock with a chance to shoot from distance which he did from 25 yards, Ejeheri able to save on the bounce. In the 51st minute they went closer than they had at any stage of the game, Burns advancing into the box before dragging a shot within a whisker of the far post.

Rovers’ hopes of a comeback were given a helping hand, quite literally, as in a bizarre moment of madness Brooke Norton-Cuffy lost his bearings and was sent off for deliberate handball, deemed to have denied a goalscoring opportunity.

The pressure then began, Harlock’s shot blocked from the edge of the box after being found by a Lenni Cirino cross before Luke Brennan’s follow-up was beaten away by Ejeheri.

Pears was doing his confidence no harm as Rovers were almost caught on the break. Balogun led the charge from inside his own half, leaving Jalil Saadi in his wake before his shot across the ‘keeper was tipped away at full stretch.

That became even more vital as Rovers pulled one back in the 61st minute. DUrrant showed good footwork to start the move before Brennan’s cross was headed in, off the post, by Burns.

Rovers then almost levelled within seconds as Brennan was denied by a flying Ejeheri save before Cirino fired an effort wide from 25 yards.

The pattern of the game had turned on its head after the red card, Rovers with their one man ascendancy seeing them take charge. Rovers were keeping their width well, particularly from the right, and it was from there a shooting chance was created for first Harlock, and after his strike was blocked, Nolan’s follow-up was within a whisker of finding the top corner from 12 yards.

Durrant was looking particularly lively during Rovers’ period of pressure and by the 72nd minute they had an equaliser, with the attacker heavily involved as he tried to collect a McBride pass, only to be tripped in the box. McBride took over the penalty duties to send Ejeheri the wrong way to bring Rovers level.

Balogun demonstrated his skills with two outrageous bits of play in as many minutes, Rovers scrambling enough numbers back to clear, but it was still Rovers who were doing the pressing Durrant fired over from distance as the game ticked into the final 10 minutes.

Good work by substitute Alex Baker from a Dan Pike clearance allowed McBride a chance to break towards the box, but off balance when shooting on his left foot, Ejeheri was able to watch it over.

A gilt-edge chance to win it for Rovers arrived with four minutes to go, Brennan’s cross nodded back across goal by McBride but over from Baker when found free inside the six yard box.

And that proved to be crucial as in the final minute of normal time Rovers failed to clear a corner from which Balogun worked a shooting angle to curl an effort through a host of bodies and out of reach of Pears.

The action wasn’t done there, Brennan denied by Ejeheri when played through by Harlock before firing over from the rebound.

Rovers were getting frustrated at the theatrics of the visitors and their frustration told when Dan Pike was shown a straight red card for kicking out.

Rovers: Pears, Ferguson (Pike, 65), Saadi, Pratt, Cirino, Nolan, Harlock, Durrant (Weston, 81), McBride, Brennan, Burns (Baker, 77)

Subs: Eastham, Gamble

Arsenal: Ejeheri, Norton-Cuffy, Lopez, Ogungbo, Rekik, Patino (Awe, 62), Alebiosu, Oulaid M’Hand, Biereth, Hutchinson (Akinola, 72), Balogun

Subs: Hillson, Taylor-Hart, Olayinka