Academy boss Alan Moore spoke to us about the thoroughly enjoyable FA Youth Cup victory over Tranmere Rovers at Brunton Park on Wednesday night.
“The lads have grown up as a group recently and they showed that in the way they kept going right to the end of the game,” he said. “When we got to extra time we drilled it into them that they needed to be mentally stronger and tougher than Tranmere.
“We knew they were tired - you understand that in extra time - but we told them to look at how many players Tranmere had on the ground, and we told them not to go down. We emphasised the mental strength they needed and that they had to make sure they kept the work rate up. We ended up doing exactly that.
“It went to the very last minute but I thought the lads fully deserved their victory. The amount of character they showed us is brilliant. The performance typifies where they’re at because they will work hard for each other and they’ll keep going.”
“Gong back to earlier in the game, it was massively important for us to get the equaliser so soon after Tranmere scored their first goal,” he told us. “Being honest, we wanted half time to come after just ten minutes. We weren’t playing well at all.
“I’ll put that down to the fact we were playing under the lights because that does have an affect of the young lads. They didn’t perform anywhere near the levels we expect until ten minutes before half time. We just needed to get them in and start again because we were getting the run-around. Tranmere could have scored five or six because we weren’t doing our jobs at all.
“We regrouped during the break and we told the lads to forget the first half because it had been and gone. It was a case of getting it out of their system and getting on with it. They had more of an idea of what to expect after the break and they handled it much better.”
“We said in the lead up to kick off that it was going to be a close game, but we didn’t expect it to be this close,” he commented. “They brought a couple of players in who hadn’t played against us before, so they must have been with the first team.
“They’re a very strong outfit and that’s why they’re top of the league. Full credit to the lads for putting in the shift they gave us. The goals we conceded weren’t nice to see and that’s probably the only negative from the night.
“Morgan Bacon probably got sucked in to the fact we had watched DVDs which showed Tranmere dropping off to let other teams play. He probably assumed they weren’t going to press high and that’s where their first one came from.
“Having said that, Morgan set up Jordan Holt’s goal with his distribution and quick thinking. Players at this age are going to make mistakes and the important thing is that they pick themselves up and go again.
“Their second goal was a bit of luck because Matty Douglas got the header and it ricocheted back off the forward’s head. We didn’t let it panic us and that’s a good trait to have.”
On the match-winning appearance by substitute Kieran Hall, he said: “He is a real pain and pest of a player. He has been on at me constantly to let me know he felt he was fit, and he’s one we have to hold back to a certain degree.
“He shouldn’t have been on the pitch for as long as he was because that was his first appearance after a long injury lay-off. We thought he would only have 10 or 15 minutes to play because we wanted to get it won within the 90 minutes. He had only trained once, so it was a bit of a gamble to put him on. I’m delighted for him because he’s kept going and he is a goal scorer.
“You have to say their keeper made a couple of outstanding saves from shots outside the box and from close range. He’ll feel hard done by because he made the save just before our third goal only for Arron Bradbury to nip in and cut it back.
“The celebrations after that goal showed how much the result meant to the lads. We demand that they all celebrate together because if somebody then makes a mistake they all deal with it together. That’s the psychological side of it when you’re trying to get the team to bond.”
“It’s Doncaster at home in the next round and that will be another tough game,” he said. “We played them in the Youth Alliance Cup last year and that went to the last kick of the game as well. They were here to watch this and they’re a category 2 club, so we know we’ll have to work just as hard.
“What we’ve seen is that the lads can push themselves and get the result. They said in the dressing room at full time that they’d never felt anything like that. It’s good for them to experience it and they’ll have learned a lot about themselves and each other.”