Oxford United's under 18s stretched their unbeaten run to eight games with a 3-0 win at home to Exeter on Saturday. Two goals from Ryan Crooks and one from Owen James helped the U's extend their lead at the top of the table.
Coach Leon Blackmore-Such told us:
“Exeter are a really good academy with a good track record whose results speak for themselves, so we always prep well for it and we’ve always had good competitive games throughout the years. This game was no different and in the first half it was like a chess match, trying to work out who’s doing what, with some tactical stuff behind it, which is nice for us coaches and the boys to get our heads around; it’s not always about putting it into the channels and the basic side.
“They started a lot brighter than us. I could feel in the warm-up that we were just slightly off it. For the first 15-20 minutes we were in our own half a lot of the time without them ever having any clear-cut chances because we still kept good shape.. But we have been starting well recently and were at home, so I expected us to be a bit more dominant early in the game..
“The first half ended goalless with nothing really in it. That’s where the tactical side came into it: they had three in the middle, we had two, so we made a couple of changes just after half-time and in the second half I thought our boys grew into it physically and tactically. Kyran Lofthouse and Michael Elechi were a lot more effective, Owen was a problem all game with his energy just going past people and you know at some point he’s going to produce something.
“The first goal came when Max Harris caught the ball from a cross, threw it out to Owen James who was deep in his own half and he’s carried it past three players into their box, had a shot that the keeper saved and Ryan Crooks put in the rebound. You can do loads of tactical work but when you have players that can produce bits of individual magic it really does help you in terms of getting results in games.
“Going 1-0 up put us on the front foot and we then had a lot of better passages and the patterns we’d been working on came out, which is easier when you’ve got more confidence. We then had a passage of 19 or 20 passes and Ryan Crooks ends up shaping one from 25 yards out past the goalkeeper, for a really good goal.
“Then, from their throw-in, Jordan Edwards worked the thrower and then the second ball and Owen nicked the ball and showed good composure to beat the goalkeeper and at 3-0 the game’s put to bed.
“We’re finding ways to keep challenging this group because they’re on a fantastic run, but there’s always that element of wanting to get better. Their challenge isn’t to win the youth-team league, it’s to get into the U23s and the first team and develop themselves to be the best they can be.”
Harris, Niblett, Milton, Jones, Lofthouse, Elechi, McCreadie, Cowan (Chambers-Parillon), Crooks, James (Sampford), Spasov (Edwards)