The Under-18s’ good start to the season continued on Saturday with a strong performance and good result away to Bristol Rovers to move to the top of the South West section of the EFL Youth Alliance.
Coach Leon Blackmore-Such told us what happened:
“We had a 10.30 kick-off, but we started really brightly and within three minutes we go 1-0 up. It was from our throw-in where a little pattern we’d been practising worked well and then some good interplay in the middle. The ball came out to Owen James who slid Michael Elechi in and he pulled the ball back to Slavi Spasov who gave us the lead.
“To be fair to Bristol they came into the game a bit more from there. They pressed us a lot and some of it was quite random so we had to move the ball a lot, either backwards to invite the press or to get in behind them and we didn’t do that too well in the first half; we gave the ball away in some quite bad areas and we were quite open and they had quite a few shots on goal.
“Their goal actually came direct from a free kick. Their lad was brought down on the edge of the box and he’s shot low past Max Harris to make it 1-1 at half-time.
“We changed the game slightly in the second half; we just backed ourselves a bit more. We could have gone longer, which we didn’t really want to do, so we played out from the back more and really invited the press, which opened the game up. We really dominated the second half and went 2-1 up when Slavi scored following some good interlink play from Viktor Milton into Ryan Crooks and he put Slavi in after a one-two.
“They got a goal back from another set-piece where we felt that the back-post man was probably pushed and they’ve scored from the second phase. On another day we get the decision but the goal was given and you have to accept it and move on. They boys did that and made it 3-2 around the 75th minute. Kyran Lofthouse won a good header that put Crooksy through on goal and he’s struck it past the goalkeeper. It was one of those where it hit the post and snuck in so we’re not really sure, but we’re giving it to Crooksy until we hear otherwise!
“After that Bristol came after us a little bit and we took advantage when Owen James picked the ball up on halfway and drove forwards, he came inside on his right foot and hit a worldy to make it 4-2. All the subs were running off the bench and down to the corner flag to celebrate which is a testament to the character of the group at the moment; they’re really coming together which is pleasing for us.
“Owen’s found it a bit difficult recently having been in and around the first team over the summer, but he’s a grounded lad and he wants to get back there so he knows there are things he needs to improve to get back there again. It’s just stepping stones with him, getting his confidence back up which is coming as he’s scoring goals and setting up goals. We’re pleased with how he’s responded and he’s hopefully taking a lot of learning out of that process.”
United: Harris, Lofthouse (Sampford 70), Niblett, Milton, Jones, Elechi, Crooks, McCreadie, Chambers-Parillon, (Cowan 55), James, Spasov (Edwards 70)