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YOUTH: Type of game that youth football is about

Mark Birch on the last two fixtures

17 December 2021

We caught up with youth boss Mark Birch to talk about the last two games for the under-18s – away at Fleetwood and Salford respectively.

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“The Fleetwood game was a really disappointing one,” he said. “They played the conditions better than us on the day.

“The first goal we conceded was from a corner and after that we couldn’t get the ball out of our own half because of the wind. We gave ourselves too much to do by the time we had the wind in our favour, and it did slightly die down for the second half.

“We had a few opportunities, but we were poor on the day and we didn’t go about our job in the right way.”

“I think it did shock the lads a bit that we lost by three goals because if you looked at the league table before the game, I think Fleetwood were second bottom, so they maybe thought it would be easier than it was,” he added. “They had all their players back ahead of a big FA Youth Cup game in the week.

“We told the lads not to look at the league table because we knew they’d have players back from injuries, or back from the first team or U23s.”

And on the 1-1 away draw with the Ammies, he commented: “The Salford game was one where we came up against a team up at the top of the table with us, and we told the lads before kick off that they were the sort of games youth football is all about.

“Both teams were going to be a bit cagey but both expected to win. The week of training was good in the lead-up to it, and right from the start the lads played some great football.

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“We’re disappointed we didn’t score more goals, and when that happens you can get caught, like we did with the last kick of the game.

“We conceded because the game got a little bit frantic for 30 seconds and they lost their composure, but they’ll learn from it. That happened for us in the Preston game where we scored with the last kick of the game, and on Saturday we conceded, so we’ve experienced both sides of it.

“Jack Ellis got the goal, and he was fantastic on the day as well. If you watch the game back you would say he was head and shoulders the best player on the pitch.

“He’s a player who is looking as if he’s going to take his game to the next level. He’s playing with confidence and that little bit of arrogance you need. He’s got so much self-belief, which is good to see.”

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United face Shrewsbury this afternoon before they head into a well-earned festive break.

“We’ve got one game left before they break up for Christmas and we want to finish on a high,” he told us. “The Shrewsbury game will be the last one but they’ll be in during the following week to continue with their education.

“We’ve said to them that if we go and win the game, and they put in good personal performances, their Christmas will feel a little bit better. If we don’t go about it in the right way, they’ll spend a few weeks waiting for that next game to put it right.

“Overall, the first half of the season has been great, and the lads have got themselves into a decent position. We’ve played more than half our games already but we’ll have a look at the league table and see who is in and around it when we get going again.

“The lads have been fantastic, we couldn’t have asked for much more of them in the league. We were disappointed about the cups because we wanted to do a little bit better in those, so that’s the only downside.

“The way they go about training and their league games, they deserve credit because they’ve done really well.”

Watch the goals from the Salford away game here:

United v Salford - Breeze, Potts, M Bell, Leslie, Barnett, Ellis, Watt, Garvey (Taylor 52), Bollado, Hardy (Nugent 65), L Bell. Subs – Boyd, Gordon, Hill.

Goal – Ellis 70.

Bookings – L Bell 37, Ellis 45, Bollado 85, Watt 90.

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