Academy manager Alan Moore on the Walsall and Whitehaven games
Academy manager Alan Moore spoke to us about a series of good performances and results from the U18 squad.
“The lads are in a good run of form and we knew, with the games coming Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday, they could get a bit of momentum going if they did it right,” he said. “It seems to have gone well and we’re pleased for them.
“Walsall away was a different kind of game to what went before, because they are a total step up in class on and off the ball. They beat us 6-0 when they came up here earlier in the season, so it was always going to be a challenge for the lads.
“To be fair to them, we came away being the better team. We hit the bar and had other chances, and to a man the individual performances were outstanding.
“Like I say, they had to think about it because they had less time on the ball, so they had to move it quicker and they had to close down quicker. Walsall demanded that of them and they all adjusted really well. It was really pleasing to see.”
“The lads are on a high at the moment, because of the way they’ve been playing, but they got a bit of a wake-up call off us on Monday morning,” he commented. “They get a lot of pats on the back when they’re doing well, but you tend to find all the other little bits and bobs around the place drop off.
“All of a sudden they start to think they’ve made it and you have to remind them they need to come back down to earth. They brought that change in attitude into Tuesday, and the game against Whitehaven, where they weren’t really up to the standard we’d seen in their previous games.
“That was disappointing, so we’ve challenged them to pick it up and go again when they play Oldham this weekend.”
“The pitch was difficult on Tuesday but it’s up to us to produce a performance no matter what the surface is like,” he said. “The pitches will change now, as they dry up, but we have to deal with that by making sure our passing is crisp.
“I wouldn’t look at the playing surface as any sort of excuse. All credit to Whitehaven because they gave us a great game and they were very welcoming with us before and after the game. The lads enjoyed the experience but they had to work hard for their win.
“Games like that, against men, are a great test for us. We get to see how the players adapt to it and some of the younger lads have to man up. They have to deal with the circumstances and try to play the style of football we want them to play.”
“We changed a couple of things at half time because it was a very tight game,” he explained. “We wanted to use the extra man in midfield and not go with so many of the diagonal balls, which had brought us a lot of success against Walsall. We got the ball down and that’s where our two goals came from.
“We had some good patches of movement, which was good to see, but there just wasn’t enough of it. It’s shown them they have to work hard in every game. They can’t just go out and expect things to happen.
“Oldham are in a real run of form so if we don’t get out there and approach it properly we will struggle. They’ll play the game at a high tempo so, again, we’ll have to adapt and deal with it. The good thing from the other night is that heads didn’t drop and they got a reward for that with the winning goal they scored so late in the day.”
“It was good to see Jason [Blackburn] put that away so confidently,” he said. “I think he’ll agree it wasn’t his best performance but he always gives full commitment. His penalty was a touch of class and he deserved it.
“With all of our players we’re trying to find different ways to get them to where we want them to be. They’ll get the praise when they deserve it and they’ll get the good cop, bad cop routine from myself and Vince [Overson]. We do a lot of stuff psychologically to try to help to push them on and hopefully, by the end of the process, it means we can pass them on to the first team manager with an understanding of how demanding this profession can be.”
United v Walsall – Fowler, Hurley, Marshall, White (Moyes 84), Douglas, Robson, Quigley, Hammell, Hall (Bradbury 78), Blackburn, Elliott. Subs – Burgess, Rudd, Pearson.
for Whitehaven Cumberland Cup match details.
Next up – United v Oldham, Saturday 21 February, Creighton Rugby Club, kick off 12pm