Conner Jennings’ second-half header sends Tranmere Rovers to the top of Northern Group C of the EFL Trophy with a 2-1 win over Aston Villa Under-21s.

Villa’s Cameron Archer wasted no time giving the visitors the lead, sending a left-footed strike from outside the area right into Rovers keeper Luke Pilling’s goal.

Kieron Morris started brightly for the Super Whites, dancing his way through the Villa defence before meeting the visitors’ centre-half Easah Suliman, who blocked his effort firmly.

Aston Villa academy product Corey Blackett-Taylor – now Rovers winger – excited home fans as he forced the first save out the night out of Villa goalkeeper Jamie Searle, who got down well to his left-hand side to stop the left-footed shot.

Just inside of 15 minutes, Blackett-Taylor again caused trouble on the left side as he teed up George Ray, who had time and space to volley the ball home.

The before-mentioned Morris glided past the Villa full-back with a wonderful piece of skill only for Blackett-Taylor to not capitalise on the opportunity, before Tyreik Wright latched onto a through ball from Archer but was denied by Manny Monthe’s fantastically timed tackle.

The Villa youngsters survived heavy pressure from the whites towards the end of the first half, keeping the scores level.

Blackett-Taylor started the second-half as he left the first, causing trouble down his left side. Full-back Rowe had to clear the ball behind this own goal to deny Coventry loanee Jordan Ponticelli a tap in at the far post.

Morris again heavily featured in the second period forcing multiple blocks from Villa defenders in the early exchanges before adventurous centre-back, George Ray, headed over to end Rovers’ pressure.

Conner Jennings had two chances just after the hour mark, a spectacular volley attempt that whistled over and later a free header in the area the sailed wide of the Villa goal.

Jennings finally got his reward for his persistence late on, heading home a deflected effort from inside the Villa 18-yard box leaving Searle in disarray.

Stand out performers Ray and Blackett-Taylor received a standing ovation from the Rovers faithful 10 minutes from time.

Late on, Ponticelli blazed a right-footed volley over the bar after Monthe’s header hit the post just before Harvey Gilmour’s free-kick was hit low into the corner only for a fine save by Searle to keep the visitors in the tie.

Referee Ollie Yates blew the full-time whistle after 7 additional minutes of injury time, giving Tranmere three points and sending them to the top of Northern Group C.

Coventry away is next for Rovers on Saturday, their next game in the Trophy is home to Salford City on 12th November.