Match report: Doncaster Rovers 2 Derby County U21s 2 - Rovers win 4-3 on penalties
It might be a competition criticised for favouring elite youth development but Doncaster Rovers' own young crop took the spotlight in their Checkatrade Trophy tie with Derby County U21s.
Goals from 19-year-old Liam Mandeville and 17-year-old Will Longbottom saw Rovers come from behind before they were cruelly pegged back in the last minute for a 2-2 draw.
And Marko Marosi was the hero in the penalty shootout for the bonus point, saving two to give Rovers a 4-3 triumph.
Highly-rated Manchester United loanee James Wilson put Derby ahead after eight minutes before fellow senior player Andreas Weimann looped home a header in the 90th minute for the draw.
It was ultimately cruel on the young Rovers outfit who were deserving of a win, particularly after a fine second half performance.
Alfie Beestin - the summer signing from Tadcaster Albion - was superb, showing a level of development since his last outing in the previous group game at Mansfield Town.
And several players gave Darren Ferguson something to think about with fine performances.
Competition rules state a side must field five players who started the previous league game or will the next.
John Marquis’ suspension for Saturday’s clash with Barnet handed Ferguson some leeway on his selection and he made seven changes.
Summer signing Mathieu Baudry made his first start for the club while fellow pre-season injury victim Paul Keegan made his first appearance of the campaign.
Mandeville and Beestin started in their bid to replace Marquis in Saturday’s line-up.
Derby fielded an imposing front line of first team players featuring Wilson plus Nick Blackman, Weimann and Johnny Russell.
Ferguson started the game watching from the stands. It took him 37 minutes to appear in the technical area, and he did not look thrilled with what he had seen from on high.
Rovers were ponderous in possession and sloppy with passes, making life far too easy for the young midfield and back line the Rams fielded.
Barring a few moments, there was a real lack of penetration as well as control from the hosts.
In contrast, Derby were excellent in possession and were happy to spray passes around the field once they had taken the lead with eight minutes on the clock.
Keegan showed a degree of ring rust played a poor pass forward to Harry Middleton which allowed Wilson in to dart forward and lash a low shot into the far corner from 20 yards.
Derby latched a stranglehold on the game with their excellent control of the ball but they struggled to create any real danger for Rovers.
Blackman smashed a free kick on goal which Marko Marosi was forced to punch clear in their best opportunity.
Rovers began to see more of the ball in the opposition half as the half hour mark passed.
Baudry nipped in ahead of keeper Henrich Ravas to meet Beestin’s free kick but flicked a header just wide.
Ferguson’s presence on the touchline appeared to have a positive effect on his side as they finished the half much the stronger.
A superb slide-rule pass from Beestin put Mandeville in one-on-one on the angle but he fired straight at Ravas. The move was a preview of a goal to come.
And moments later Marquis spun and shot 15 yards out with his blocked strike falling to Calder who smashed straight at the keeper. Derby defender Farrend Rawson was forced to head from under his bar from the subsequent corner.
Rovers started the second half as they finished the first and within eight minutes they were level.
Beestin swept a quite stunning reverse pass into the box, Mandeville took a touch and curled it past the keeper.
Blackman drew a fine save from Marosi with a volley but Rovers were on the front foot.
Marquis volleyed a fine cross from Middleton at Navas while Calder drilled wide from 25 yards.
Last-ditch defending from Derby denied Rovers the chance to turn in dangerous crosses from Middleton.
But the goal finally came eight minutes from time.
Mason delivered a deep cross, Marquis headed the ball back across goal and Longbottom bravely dived in to head home his first senior goal from close range.
Derby put pressure on in the late stages and just as it looked as though Rovers would see the game out, the Rams struck from nothing.
Weimann leapt well and looped a header over Marosi and into the far corner from a deep cross.
The game went to the spot with Marosi saving from Alefe Santos to give Rovers the early advantage.
Marquis missed for Rovers but Marosi made sure of the bonus point when he tipped substitute Mason Bennett’s penalty onto the post.
Rovers: Marosi, Mason, Wright (Fielding 30), Baudry, Evina (Garratt 30), Middleton, Keegan, Calder, Mandeville (Longbottom 74), Marquis, Beestin. Subs not used: Etheridge, James, Amos, Scattergood.
Derby U21: Ravas, Santos, Rawson, Cover, Stabana, Vernam (Bennett 65), Guy, Wilson (Camara 65), Russell (Gordon 78), Blackman, Weimann. Subs not used: Babos, Barnes, Jakobsen, Bateman.
Referee: Carl Boyeson (East Yorkshire)
Attendance: 1,515 (94 away)