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YOUTH: We wanted to get off to a good start

Mark Birch on a winning opening game

20 August 2021

United’s season finally got under way with an impressive victory over Walsall last Saturday, and we caught up with youth boss Mark Birch to get his thoughts on the game.

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“It was good to finally get the season under way,” he agreed. “We obviously got delayed in getting started by a week because the Shrewsbury game was called off, but we were really pleased with how things went against Walsall. The way the lads went about it was really pleasing.

“It’s one of the longest journeys so it’s never the easiest place for us to go. The lads aren’t used to those kinds of journeys so for the last few years we’ve adjusted the way we approach this game. We were fortune enough that the club organised a coach for us to go down on, which makes a big difference.

“I think the lads were raring to go. They came out and did exactly what we expected of them. They know they have to work hard and they got their rewards for that. Even though we went one down we still had the belief that there was something in the game for us.”

“We started the game really well and we probably should have been 3-0 up after 20 minutes,” he continued. “We conceded the first goal off a set-piece, which is disappointing, because we did a lot of work on defending them on the Friday before the game.

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“The lads reacted really well to the setback, and within five or ten minutes we were back level. We then got the goal just before half time to go 2-1 and that set the second half up nicely.

“The quality of the goals was pleasing as well. Nic Bollado is a first year who has come in and done very well during pre-season.

“He got his goals by working hard and putting defenders under pressure but he probably missed the easiest chance he had in the game then scored the two more difficult ones.”

With the team having got off to a winning start, he added: “You always want to start the season well and hit the ground running, so to start off with a win is good.

“Last year we built a team on hard work who had a good appetite to play football and were creative in the final third, and I think that’s what we’ve got again this year. It’s pleasing when you’ve got other coaches commenting on the appetite and work rate of your team.”

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Next up for United is a Youth Alliance Cup meeting with Rotherham on Saturday afternoon.

“Rotherham in the cup will be a slightly different game because they aren’t a team we play often,” he told us. “We’ll obviously try and find out little bits but we just try to concentrate on what we do.

“If we work hard, defend well and attack with creativity then that’s all we can ask. For the past couple of years we haven’t done well in this competition. We looked back last year and we probably had our two worst results of the season in it.

“The way we finished the season, we were looking at it and thinking we would have had a chance to do something in it. We want to give everything we’ve got to get through the group stage, then see where it goes after that.”

United – Simons, Ellis, Bell, Leslie, Barnett, Kilsby, Carr (Hill 82), Garvey (Taylor 67) Bollado, Hardy (Potts 86), Watt. Subs – Boyd, Park.


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