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Interviews

YOUTH: You have to take the positives from every game

Mark Birch on the game against Rotherham and Port Vale this weekend

27 August 2021

The young Blues lost the first of their trio of Youth Alliance Cup games when Rotherham struck three times from set pieces to claim a narrow 3-2 victory.

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Having highlighted that method of conceding as a potential threat, under-18 manager Mark Birch admitted that it had been hard to take to see the team lose in that manner.

“It was a frustrating day," he admitted. "We went ahead twice then got pegged back by set pieces and lost the game. We conceded from three set pieces, which was pleasing in one way and disappointing in another way.

"It sounds strange to say it was pleasing, but we warned the lads on Friday about how important set pieces would be, particularly their attitude towards them.

"We said it would bite them on the backside if they didn’t take them seriously, and it did. Hopefully it’s a lesson learned for the lads that they have to concentrate. I expect that when we practice them from now on they'll show a better attitude towards them.

“You have to take positives out of every game you play at our level and sometimes when you’ve got young lads, it’s important they learn, even if it means losing a game.

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"Especially when there’s a chance they can quickly be moved up to the first team arena. If they’re doing set pieces in a first team environment they know now how important it is to concentrate and adapt themselves to each situation."

“Obviously with that being the first group game in this competition it just means we’ve got to win the next two games to progress," he added. "I don’t think Rotherham created a goal scoring opportunity from open play so we’ll take the positives out of that.

"We were probably the better team, it was a scrappy game and it was played like a proper League Two fixture. It was the kind of game most of the lads won’t have been involved in before, so it’s good for them to experience that."

On the scoresheet with a brace in both games playes so far has been striker Nic Bollado, who has hit the ground running at the start of this season.

“Nic has had a great start to so far but he has to give a lot of credit to Mason Hardy, who has assisted most of the goals he’s scored," he told us. "Nic has been in the right place at the right time and showed good composure in front of goal.

“It feels like the lads are all settled now and starting to understand what is required from them. They’re all working hard and they’re getting over that initial tiredness of having long days. The standards in training are lifting each week so we’re quite happy with them so far."

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Next up for the under-18s is a home game against Port Vale on Saturday afternoon.

“Port Vale have been down the bottom of the league over the last couple of years but you never know what to expect from each team when you go into a new season," he said.

"We’ll concentrate on how we play and make sure we work hard, then we’ll see where the game takes us."

And on striker Sam Fishburn's exploits with Lancaster City, he commented: “I went down to Lancaster on Tuesday night to watch him, he did well and took his goal well.

"He’s doing what we expect him to do, he’s scoring goals and working hard. Hopefully at the end of this loan we’ll see where it takes him, but it’s exactly what we wanted.

“He’s getting experiences he wouldn’t get in youth football. He’s been on the bench for the first team a couple of times but he needs to play games.

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"He needs to be man-handled by defenders who are bigger than him, which he won’t get at youth level, so it ticks all of the boxes. He’s scoring goals which everyone enjoys doing, so it’s all good for him so far.

“It’s good for the other lads to see Sam doing that as well. It gives them something to talk about and aim for.

"Everybody is pleased it’s going well for Sam, but it gives everyone a spring in their step and shows them what they’ve got to do to achieve things like that. They’ve got to get in and around the first team, then we’ll start talking about the next part of their development. If that’s a loan move we’ll look at it from there.”

United v Rotherham – Simons, Potts, Bell, Carr, Barnett, Kilsby, Taylor, Garvey (Hill 74) Bollado, Hardy (Park 78), Watt. Subs – Boyd, Swinburn, Allan.

Goals – Bollado (2, 31)

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