YOUTH: It's always about both boxes

United’s under-18 side were knocked out of the FA Youth Cup by a Fleetwood team who showed a ruthless streak when it came to taking their chances.

Two goals either side of the break left the Cumbrians with a mountain to climb, and youth boss Mark Birch was quick to highlight what had ultimately made the difference.

“They were better in both penalty boxes, both defending and attacking it,” he said. “The little bit in between you’ve got to be neat and tidy, but games are won in both penalty boxes.

“We didn’t defend the penalty box and weren’t aggressive enough in trying to create or score goals. After the first two goals it was game over, to be honest. 

“It’s just really frustrating. Whether it’s the occasion because it is a big night, the lads have probably built themselves up for it.”

“You’ve got to take the learning curves out of the game as well,” he added. “As big a disappointment as it is, they’ve had exposure to it now, of playing at Brunton Park.

“I’ve got to try and find positives from it. The score isn’t what we wanted but we’ll try and find the learning curves out of it. If you defend like we did, and not be aggressive enough in both boxes, you’re not going to win games of football.”

The scoreline doesn’t quite tell the story of the number of chances the home team had, particularly as they picked up the pace later in the game.

“We actually started quite well,” he commented. Nic Bollado’s had a header and if it falls either side of the goalkeeper it goes in.

“He also got through on his left foot, so before they’ve had a show on goal we’ve had two chances. Then the handball, Jake Allan will beat himself up for it, these things happen in football and to young players and he’s got to learn from it.

“I’m more disappointed the corner we conceded from, we didn’t attack the ball. We worked on it this morning, all about getting the first contact, not letting people run off you.

“That’s more disappointing than the penalty. But after that you’re always trying to find that next goal. Coming out after half-time, we get a goal and it’s game on.

“I always find 2-0 a hard lead to defend, but we gave them another goal. I can’t fault the effort from our lads but on the night they didn’t do normally what they do.”

Accepting the disappointment of the result, it shouldn’t detract from the fact that it’s been an excellent start to the season from a team that knows how to win games.

“We’ve had two rough results, one against Blackpool, one tonight,” he said. “We’ve got to educate the lads – why has that happened, why did we go on an unbeaten run of six games, not conceding many goals, scoring plenty.

“Is it complacency, we’ll ask that question. But we’re going in the right direction, the players as individuals are. We can’t beat ourselves up but we’ve got to educate ourselves to move forward.

“We’ve got to move past it now. We’ve got Rotherham in the Alliance Cup on Saturday, so the lads will watch this game back.

“Football’s all about how quickly can you overcome disappointments, whether that’s in the game and you make a bad pass, can you make the next one better, if it’s losing the game, can you win the next one.

“You can’t sit and dwell. Football moves so quickly. The ones who sit and dwell on it are the ones who get left behind.

“The lessons to pick up on here are they were probably a bit neater and tidier than us in the midfield area, but I can’t remember Boydy really having to make many saves.

“Their keeper had plenty to do and that’s a disappointing part of it. We’ve made life hard. That could have been a lot closer but it’s moments in games.

“The lads have got to learn from it if they want to go forward and have a career at some level. They either sit and sulk or overcome disappointment quickly, which is what football’s all about.

“It’s not all about going forward, climbing the hill and keep going, you’re going to have that dip where you get a reality check. How quickly can you overcome disappointment and get back onto the next moment is what matters.”

And dealing with the big occasion is something else that can be taken away.

“We had a lot of first years on the pitch and it’s the first time they’ve probably played under floodlights at Brunton Park,” he explained. “It’s a special night doing that. It’s a great stadium to play at, big night with the floodlights on, because it’s such an old, traditional stadium.

“There was just under 500 people here, probably the most they’ve ever played in front of. That’s out of the system now, they can move forward, they’ve done it, had an experience, probably not a pleasant experience. but the positive is they’ve done it.

“Next time they’ll find it a lot easier. Next time they’ll know you’ve got to be ruthless in both penalty boxes. That’s where the game’s won. They were probably a bit more ruthless than us.

“They’re a good side. They’ve got good hunger, a good way of playing. It’s just disappointing that they didn’t really make any mistakes, we did, and we got punished for every mistake we made. 

“The manager was here and it’s about looking at the second years and seeing what’s there. We’ve all got to find the positives out of it.

“If that positive is learning from the negatives, that’s what we’ll do. The positive is we know we’re not good enough at defending corners at the minute, we know we’re not defending properly in open play, so we’ll go and work on it.”

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