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RESERVES: We tidied things up

Youth boss Mark Birch with Morecambe match reaction

14 April 2022

Youth boss Mark Birch was in charge for the Central League Cup meeting with Morecambe on Thursday afternoon, and he watched his side come back from an early second-half setback to secure progression to the semi-final and a meeting with Preston North End.

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He gave us his reaction to the win after the game.

“I think we started quite well and we were the team that was on top for the first half hour,” he said. “We lost a little bit of patience and belief because we didn’t get the early goal, and I think if we’d got that the game would have been easier for us.

“We keep reminding these players that if they’re having success at doing certain things they need to keep doing them and not change the way they approach it. That’s when they get frustrated and the mistakes come in, and that’s what they need to avoid.

“Morecambe started the second half better than we did. We didn’t follow the runners, we committed too many men forward too soon and we lost a little bit of shape. That allowed them to get into the game and take the lead.”

On what he’d spoken to the players about during the break, he told us: “We told them to believe in themselves more.

“The shape of the team wasn’t too bad in the first half, but it was individual errors and bad touches that were costing us.

“We were sloppy in too many areas so we asked them to tidy things up and to sharpen up. I wanted them all to give a bit extra, and to identify and close down situations before they came about.

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“We did that after they’d scored, and it was a good goal that got us level. We got some good movement down the left-hand side and it was a decent finish in the end from Sam.

“To be honest, when we were a goal down the game was too structured, there wasn’t enough chaos, so we threw a load of forwards on to try to change that. We wanted to bring a bit more unpredictability to it, and that worked for us.

“One criticism we’ve had all season is that we aren’t ruthless enough. We create so many chances that we don’t take and that can come back to bite you on occasions. Thankfully we stayed with it and we got our goals.”

Involved from the first-team squad were Gime Toure and Josh Dixon, who both played their part in the eventual victory.

“It’s great because these younger lads want to learn off the older players,” he commented. “They want to show them that they’re good players too, and they want to earn their respect.

“Gime got his goal, he showed the younger lads the respect they deserve with the way he did things. That matters because these games are important to the youth team lads.

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“And we’re obviously all concerned for Josh. We don’t really know yet how he is. Dave Cullen [youth physio] has gone in with him and hopefully it settles down because we don’t want any bad news for him.

“He just needs that little rub of the green but hopefully it’s not too bad. The good thing is he’s started playing games, it’s his second in the space of a week, so let’s not talk about the negatives,

“Let’s see the positive that he got through a game on Monday, he did 70 minutes here, and let’s all hope it’s only a knock and not anything worse than that.”

Looking ahead to the next phase of the competition, he said: “You always want to keep the season going and as a footballer and as a coach you want to be involved in everything.

“People say it’s development football but we’ve also got to teach the lads about winning games and what it’s like to have that winning feeling.

“You want them to experience what success feels like and that’s what you get from these competitions.

“Last year we felt the lows when we got to the final, but we lost, so let’s see what feeling we get from the next round of this one.

“The further you go you start to play teams you don’t normally meet in our normal round of fixtures, so you want to keep it going for that reason as well.

“It gives lads exposure who are pushing for different things, be they first or second years, so the more games there are like this the more opportunities the players get.”

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