Alan Moore on the Rochdale and Shrewsbury gamesAcademy manager Alan Moore spoke to us about the recent games against Rochdale and Shrewsbury.
"We did well against Shrewsbury with a young team," he said. "We know, when we come up against the better teams, that if we catch them on a good day then we're going to struggle. That's what we did against Rochdale.
"Rochdale deservedly beat us 5-0. There were a couple of sending off decisions and that seems to be the norm at the moment. It was a big step up for a lot of the lads and they struggled against a side who played really well on the day."
"We're going to stick with the younger team," he added. "We've got another five games coming up, including the friendlies, between now and the end of the season and they'll get used in all of them. We're hoping that once the lads get into the under 17 games, after the season has finished, we'll see them step up and improve."
"The problem we've got with the league games at the moment is that we're almost putting a team together on the Saturday morning," he explained. "That's because we don't have the under-16s with us full time. That isn't ideal, but we're going to stick with it."
"We were two down within ten minutes at Shrewsbury, and that was probably down to under 16s coming into the back four," he said. "Once they adjusted we were really pleased with how they applied themselves. In the end we were probably unlucky not to come away with an easy win.
"Shrewsbury had six or seven second years in their team, and Rochdale were the same when they played us the week before. We know that physically our lads won't be able to compete because lads of that age have had full time football for two years. Our lads are doing well and we're pleased with how they're all progressing at this moment in time.
"The first years stepped up in the Bury game a couple of weeks ago. They dropped off for a couple of games so we've challenged them to maintain the benchmark they set against Bury. We told them they'd set the bar and they need to start showing us they can do it consistently now."
"We go to play Wrexham on Saturday and they are doing really well at this moment in time," he commented. "At this stage of the season we'll be looking to go down there and put a team out, just so the lads get more minutes under their belt. Pitch time can only help them."
On the decisions made on the current group of second years, he said: "Telling the second years is never an easy day. They get to a stage where they just want to know, so you end up having to put them off for the last couple of months to keep them focused.
"It's obviously great news for Connor Hammell," he told us. "He now goes onto the next challenge, which will be tougher. It's an opportunity for him and we think he's got the ability to go and step up.
"The hard work starts now for him because he'll be playing with men, and everything he does will mean something. He's out with Whitehaven at the moment so he's getting a taste of it. We're really pleased with the ability he has. He needs to add a few bits to his game and we're confident he can do that."
"We had different conversations with all of the lads," he said. "Some of them were unlucky and we've challenged them to go away and prove us wrong. Some of the lads knew they haven't applied themselves 100% over the course of the two years, and that's disappointing to hear when we get to this stage.
"They knew when they came in to talk to us that they hadn't done it. They can have no regrets but I hope all of them will go out to try and prove us wrong.
"Frankie [Wallace] has had a game and a half now, since returning from injury, and we'll keep getting minutes under his belt. That will give him time to get back into football before we make a decision on him."
United 0 - 5 Rochdale: Fowler, Rudd (McCue, 66), Pearson, Taylor (Groves, 53), Douglas, Hurley, Quigley, Moyes, Hall, Blackburn, Bradbury (Wallace, 46). Subs: Holt.
United 2 - 2 Shrewsbury: Fowler, Pearson, McCue (Groves, 70), Wallace, Robson, Hurley, Rudd (Salkeld, 70), Taylor, Hall, Holt (Egan, 46), Bradbury.