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YOUTH: Maybe the knock came at the right time

Mark Birch on a return to winning ways for the under-18s

2 December 2021

United’s under-18 side got back to winning ways in style last Saturday as they battled against severe winds to record a good 4-0 home win over Accrington.

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Speaking about the game, boss Mark Birch said: “It was good to get back to winning ways and the lads went about it in the right way. We got back to doing what we do well, and it was a good win.

“Creighton is windy at the best of times, but I thought we handled the conditions on Saturday morning better than they did, especially in the first half.

“They had the wind in the first half and they probably ended up going too direct, so the ball was out of play a lot of the time. When we had it behind us in the second half we went wide instead of going long and we tried to stretch the game.

“That gave the likes of DJ Taylor the chance to affect the game, which he did. At the moment Nic Bollado and Mason Hardy keep scoring. We’ve worked a lot in the last few weeks on what they do outside the box and the types of runs they should be making.

“We also wanted to get them back to the work rate they had at the start of the season because we felt they’d become a little bit complacent.

"They’re the only two out-and-out centre forwards we’ve got in the group now that Sam [Fishburn] has moved up, so we felt like they were thinking that scoring goals was enough to keep them in the team.

“With the level of football we’re playing, which is all about development, we’re asking for a little bit more, particularly when they don’t have the ball. They did that on Saturday, they obviously both got their goals, but their all-round play was very good as well.”


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Having picked up a draw and a defeat with back-to-back meetings with Rochdale in their previous outings, it was important to pick things up again in the lead-up to the Christmas break.

“We lost that winning feeling over the last couple of games and that wasn’t good,” he agreed. “I think it’s natural that the group will take a bit of a knock when they’d been on such a good run before that.

“Maybe the knock came at the right time because a little bit of complacency started to creep in. With this group you can usually tell how the game is going to go in training the day before, and we knew on Friday that they were ready for the game.

“The warm-up was good as well, and they took that into the game. Now it’s about taking it forward, and we do that by taking each game as it comes.

“We go to Fleetwood on Saturday and they haven’t been as strong this year as they’ve been in the past, but we know they’ll have good players. We’ll concentrate on what we need to do and make sure we go about it in the right way.”

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One player who will definitely be with the first-team this weekend, and who will therefore miss out on the trip to Poolfoot Farm, is Sam Fishburn, who celebrated his 18th birthday with his first ever start for the club last weekend.

“It’s fantastic for us all to see Sam starting a league game for the first team,” he said. “I remember the night he first came to us, we had an 11v11 in the academy and we were low on numbers, so I had to actually play midfield.

“He had a couple of trial games with us, then we signed him, and to see where he’s come from and where he is now is a fantastic achievement for him. It’s just the start of what we all hope will be a good, long career for him.

“And this happening to him gives the rest of the lads hope, but it isn’t just about the lads we’ve got in the academy already.

“It also helps us when we’re looking to bring players into the club, and when we’re talking to the U15s and U16s about what they need to do.

“I think some of the lads listen and think we’ve got to say that because it’s part of what we do, but to actually see it happen for one of their own makes it real. Sam came to us late, but he’s developing really well, and we hope it continues that way for him.”

Watch the goals from the Accrington game here:

United – Breeze, Potts, M Bell, Carr (Gordon 77), Ellis, Leslie, Watt, Nugent, Bollado, Hardy (Hill 67), Taylor. Subs – Boyd, Barnett.

Goals – Bollado (20, 75), Hardy (50, 61)

Booked – Hardy (40)

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