NEWCASTLE United’s youngsters suffered a disappointing night as Blackburn Rovers knocked them out of the Under-21 Premier League Cup at St James’s Park.
Dean Rittenberg scored the decisive goal on 21 minutes as Blackburn won the quarter-final tie 1-0, while Newcastle saw Olivier Kemen sent off for a second booking at the death.
Newcastle coach Peter Beardsley was able to include Callum Roberts and Adam Campbell in their starting line-up as part of their youth loan with Gateshead, grew into the game after a strong Blackburn start.
Campbell had the first opportunity after an impressive long pass from Kemen, but his shot from the edge of the box was deflected wide.
Roberts injected some quality into the game on 12 minutes with some tricky play on the right, sliding in between defenders before narrowly failing to slip in Alex Gilliead.
After that, it was Blackburn’s turn to press, and Newcastle defender Macauley Gillesphey did well to beat Jordan Slew to the ball at the back post as the striker looked set to tap in.
John O’Sullivan hit a shot over soon after for Rovers, while Kemen was denied by a block after a strong run at the other end.
Blackburn got their noses in front after Anthony O’Connor’s ball over the top put Slew through on goal.
He beat his man, carried the ball and then played it across the box, with Rittenberg on hand to bundle it in from close range.
Gael Bigirimana’s effort soon after was beaten away by visiting goalkeeper David Raya, and just after the half-hour, the midfielder’s low free-kick struck the wall before trickling just past the post .
Slew had a great chance to make it 2-0, but failed to hit the target despite being in space on the edge of the box, while a free-kick from Connor Mahoney was nodded wide by Jack O’Connell, who had a free header.
Before the half was out, Newcastle defender Callum Williams denied Mahoney with a block, but Blackburn went in at the break with a deserved advantage.
Rovers started the second half on the front foot, too, and Slew slid a shot just wide before another effort from the frontman was smartly kept out by the feet of goalkeeper Brendan Pearson.
David Carson, from Boldon, had the next chance for the visitors, but Bigirimana charged down his shot, while the resulting corner was headed narrowly over by O’Connor.
Roberts was forced off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury with 14 minutes left.
Bigirimana had a shot charged down with six minutes left after Newcastle appealed for a penalty to no avail, while Ryan Nyambe also slid Magpies substitute Tom Heardman’s cross into his own net, with the ball trickling just past the post.
Heardman had a shot deflected wide one minute from the end as the equaliser evaded Newcastle, who saw their cup hopes ended.
Kemen was given his marching orders right at the end, receiving a second booking for a late challenge.
NEWCASTLE UNITED U21S: Pearson, Barlaser, Laidler, Kemen, Williams, Gillesphey, Gilliead (Heardman 66), Bigirimana, Campbell, Smith (Quinn 76), Roberts (Broccoli 76). Subs not used: Atkinson, Harker.
Booked: Kemen (45), Bigirimana (90).Sent off: Kemen (90).
BLACKBURN ROVERS U21S: Raya, Nyambe, Spurr (Doyle 83), Bauress, O’Connor, O’Connell, O’Sullivan (Green 63), Carson, Rittenberg, Slew, Mahoney. Subs not used: Crump, Lavelle, Preston.
Goal: Rittenberg (21). Booked: Carson (90).