Youth boss Eric Kinder gave a very honest assessment of his team’s Tuesday night performance in the second round of this season’s Cumberland Cup as the young Blues edged through to the next stage courtesy of a sudden death penalty win.
“To be honest, that was a poor performance from us,” he said. “Full credit to Northbank because they set their stall out and they disrupted us really well. They never let us get into any sort of rhythm and we just got more frustrated as the game went on.
“We actually didn’t do one thing that we talked about leading up to the game and that’s very frustrating. We need to thank our lucky stars that we got through to the next round after that performance.”
“You’ll have seen that I made a double change at half time because I thought we were very poor from the word go,” he added. “We have three parts to our game – a kick off, a free kick and throw ins – and we made a mess of all three right from the first whistle.
“It looked to me like we thought we were better players and a better team than we really are. Then, because we were up against a local side from a local league, we clearly thought we just had to go out and kick the ball and we’d be fine. It just doesn’t work like that.
“We didn’t play as a team at any point, so this is another part of the learning process for these young players, and I hope they take something out of it.”
A strong start to the second half from Northbank saw keeper Isaac Robinson called into action twice in quick succession to keep his side in the tie.
“He did well with the free kick and the block with his legs because I thought both were going in,” he commented. “Listen, like I say, I don’t think we deserved to go through at all.
“The positive thing to come out of this is that the penalties were good practice for the FA Youth Cup game on Monday night. That’s a big game for us because it’s the biggest competition for any under-18 side.
“We’ve had half an eye on that, but that’s no excuse for how we played. We just didn’t get anywhere near the levels we expect to see.
“Between now and the FA Cup game we have the trip to Mansfield in the Alliance Cup, but that’s a competition we know we can’t progress in, so we’ll pick the team accordingly. I wanted to make changes at half time in this game, to try to save some legs, but we couldn’t do that because of how poorly we were playing, and I knew we needed to try to get into the game.”
“One thing I will say is that the lads always keep going, even when it isn’t happening for them,” he said. “That’s something we can say about this group because we’ve had a few games this season where we’ve lacked a bit of quality, but we haven’t let heads drop.
“As an example I didn’t think we were particularly good in the first half against Salford but once we decided to get our act together we played very well. Our passing in this game meant we couldn’t find a rhythm to what we were doing and there were times when we looked like we didn’t really know how to make it right, which is surprising.
“The same problem we’ve had all season came back to haunt us because we can see that we are going to struggle to score goals. We had some good possession in the final third but we never really looked like scoring.”
Looking ahead to the 6pm Friday night kick off at Mansfield, he said: “Half of the team will be under-16 because, as I’ve said, we’ve lost the group games so we can’t get to the knock-out stages.
“The other half of the team will be substituted at half time because the focus has to be on the Monday game. It’s a situation where we have to look after ourselves because the FA Cup is massive for us.
“We have a small squad and this amount of games in such a short space of time is difficult. We’ve lost Jarrad Branthwaite to the first team, which is fantastic, and obviously we also lost Josh Galloway at the beginning of the season.
“That means we’re really down on numbers, but it’ll never be used as an excuse, it’s just how it is. Those players have gone for the right reasons, so we’ll make do as we mix and match.
“As far as the rest of this week goes it’s all about Monday night and the FA Cup game. We’re at home in a fantastic competition and the aim is to stay in it.”