Harry Leonard scored a hat trick as Rovers Under-21s beat Preston North End 7-1 in the Central League Cup at Brockhall.

Semir Telalovic and Niall Ennis also got on the scoresheet – although the latter came off with a groin issue near the end of the first half.

Rovers started brightly, with Pat Gamble flashing a header wide of the post after losing his man at a corner.

Leonard caused the Preston backline problems from the off, breaking free down the right and rattling the post from a tight angle.

The young forward opened the scoring moments later, pouncing on a loose backpass and keeping his cool to tuck past Tommy Davis.

Telalovic could have doubled the lead but failed to hit the target with a header as Rovers continued to cause problems from set-plays.

At the other end, Theo Carroll managed to get on the end of a decent cross from the right but his header was straight at Joe Hilton.

Ennis added a second, using his strength to hold off a defender before finding the bottom corner with a clinical finish across goal.

Telalovic made it three almost immediately, opening up his body and curling home a lovely strike from the edge of the area.

Jacob Fowler, the son of former Liverpool star Robbie, was denied by Hilton after a good run as the visitors searched for a way back into the contest.

Ennis came off several minutes before the break as a precaution and was replaced by Charlie Weston.

Preston pulled one back on the stroke of half time when Rovers failed to deal with a low cross from the right and Troy Tarry got himself in the right place to stab home at the far post.

Leonard started the second half as he did the first, beating Davis with an instinctive first-time finish after some good work by Leo Duru on the right flank.

The Academy graduate nearly completed his hat trick with a header from close range but Davis did well to keep it out.

Leonard also played a key role in the fifth goal, sending Brandon Powell down the left wing with a clever pass. He picked out James Edmonson with a pinpoint cross and the midfielder nodded home.

Duru continued to look lively and saw a cross-shot saved by Davis low to his right before Leonard poked wide after combining with Telalovic.

Substitute Dominik Biniek, who recently returned from injury, produced a moment of magic for the sixth goal, curling past the Preston goalkeeper after more good link-up play by Telalovic.

The visitors nearly had a consolation at the other end when Ethan Eccleston’s overhit cross sailed over the helpless Hilton, but the woodwork came to Rovers’ rescue.

Ayden Garrigan then dragged wide after a quick counter attack before Hilton rushed out and made a smart stop deny Dylan Gairns, who had managed to break free down the right wing.

Leonard completed his hat trick at the death with a brave diving header. Davis got behind it bit could only divert the ball into the side netting.

The result saw Mike Sheron’s side secure their first three points of the group stage following defeats against Burnley and Accrington Stanley. North End are still waiting to get off the mark, having lost their opener against Wrexham last month.