United coach Gav Skelton gave us his thoughts on what had been an entertaining encounter with Championship promotion-chasers Middlesbrough at Rockliffe Park on Tuesday afternoon.
“It was a pleasing performance,” he said. “In these games you tend to see experienced professionals, some who are coming back and a mix of younger players, so they all have different things to play for.
“I thought everybody got something from the game and I don’t think 3-0 was a fair reflection of our performance in the end. Our young lads acquitted themselves really well, as did the senior lads, because it can be difficult to play in reserve games at times.
“The attitude from the older players was excellent and that rubbed off on the young lads. There wasn’t a lot in the game overall and it was just the clinical finishing that gave them the edge. We hit the crossbar, their keeper made some good saves, and we found that they tended to score just after we’d missed a chance, which was frustrating.
“It was the same in the second half when we could have pulled it back to 2-1 on a couple of occasions. That would have made a real game of it. We didn’t hit the back of the net and they went up the other end to score again. That’s the important part of the learning curve but, like I say, it was a productive afternoon for us.”
On the quality of the opposition, he commented: “Things like this are good for the lads because the players they were up against have played in the Championship and, in some cases, in the Premier League. You don’t always appreciate how good they are until you actually go up against them.
“The pleasing thing was that we didn’t let that affect us. We were really good in possession and we could see that everybody wanted to get on the ball. From that the senior players got important fitness into them, and they set a high standard with how they went about it. On top of that the young players who are fighting for contracts did themselves no harm at all.
“Key to our performance was the tempo, energy and attitude. If you don’t start right in games like these it can become a long afternoon. We’re obviously disappointed that we lost but we played a big part in this game, and that’s why we’re pleased.”
On what the first and second years who took part will gain from it, he said: “I’m pleased for our youth lads because they do work really hard.
“Being involved in games like this against quality opposition is a great experience for them. Some of these Boro players have moved for millions of pounds and it’s good for our boys to see just how good players like that can be.”
And on the half time substitution of Liam McCarron, he told us: “He got a little bit of a knock on his knee. He’ll be assessed and we’ll take it from there.”
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