United’s Tuesday night game brought senior appearances for two of the club’s youth team second years, with Ryan Carr starting in a wing-back role and Nic Bollado getting the nod just before the break to replace forward Omari Patrick.
With the pair set to celebrate their birthdays soon (Carr is 18 on Friday, Bollado turns the same age next month) manager Paul Simpson spoke about the importance of understanding the opportunity they’ve been given, with nothing ever to be guaranteed.
“I’m glad you’ve told me about their birthdays because I can make sure they bring cakes in!” he joked. “Look, they’re young lads who are still developing.
“I thought they did really well in pre-season, and funnily enough I had a little conversation with them yesterday [Monday] to say ‘you’ve taken your foot off it a little bit, you need to get your finger out again because if you don’t do it properly you won’t be involved.’
“I also told them that I had a real dilemma because I wanted them to be involved on Tuesday night but I was concerned about the way they’d been going about it, and if they were in the 18 it might set the wrong example.
“I reminded them that they needed to knuckle down again, get themselves going, and if their chance did come that they had to show me they deserved it.
“I thought both of them did that, they did really well, and in the first half I thought Fleetwood targeted Carrsy a little bit. They sent diagonals onto him, but he competed really well and got up there.
“He didn’t shirk any challenges and he grew into the game. He did some good stuff with the ball so I’m pleased for them both.
“Now they need to show us that they can continue to do that. It can’t be a flash in the pan, or one half decent game and then they fall off the radar. They have to keep pushing and be the best version of themselves they can be.”
Speaking more about Nic Bollado, he commented: “I thought he grew into the game as it went on. When we pushed him wide on the left and went with the front three, I thought he looked a little bit more comfortable, but maybe he could open up his shoulders and see both ways rather than having his back to play. I thought he got stronger.
“Like I say, Ryan was excellent. He probably didn’t win many first contacts but at least he made it tough and we had players around him to deal with the second ball. I only took him off because I was changing the shape, not because of how he played.”
“I think it shows the youth team players that if they’ve got something about them and have the right attitude they’re going to get into it,” he added. “Sometimes young lads do need a reminder, and these two have just taken their foot off the gas a little bit over the last few weeks, even though the youth team have had good results with them in there.
“I expect them after training with the first team to go back and be the best players on the training pitch and stand out and be the best players in youth games. They’d just let it slip a little bit. I had to give them a verbal jab, a little word, to get back at it, do things properly, and I think they’ve done that really well tonight.”
And there were two penalty appeals from Carr and a shot that that brushed the post from Bollado that demonstrated that neither were out of their depth.
“Ryan has energy, he’s got a real tenacious attitude,” the gaffer told us. “In pre-season I thought he did really well for us, just running past people, and he nearly did it in the first half, and I thought there was possibly two penalties.
“Maybe he exaggerated his dive a little bit too much, it’s hard for me to see if there’s any contact, the referee was in a good position so I’ve got to trust that she was right. But I just think he’s got energy, and enthusiasm about him.
“I do see the right wing back role as suited to him. I considered, when I was looking at different permutations for the team, thinking how I wanted to rest the starters for the weekend with a view we’ve got Newport and Grimsby away, I considered playing him in that midfield role.
“We have a bit of an issue with these games because of the criteria about players being involved in a Cat 1 academy, having played over 40 games, played last Saturday, playing next weekend, and I don’t have a crystal ball for that.
“It’s difficult. I was trying to get the right mix of players to start. I considered him playing in midfield. I do think it’s a bit safer for him being out playing as a wing back, and he’s done well in pre-season and again in the game in that role.
“Nic’s a goalscorer. One of the things I said to him at half time, I thought he could have hit it first half when he rolled it to Sonny, it was still a good ball for Sonny, but I said to Nic, have a bit of belief about you, go and strike it, just have a go, see what happens.
“We all saw what happened when Callum Guy swung his left foot on Saturday, and nearly again but for a very good save. I was pleased with Nic. Especially when he went wider on the left, he looked really bright and threatening. That type of thing is what helped get us back in the game.”
“For all of the young players, it’s a real education for them so I’m really pleased with them all,” he concluded. “Corey led, with that armband, I thought he led it really well. Duncan grew into the game, he looked a bit nervous to start but I thought he was excellent, some of his defending.
“So unfortunate he got outjumped for that set play, it’s the only header he lost in the game. His use of the ball was very good. I’m pleased with everybody who’s been involved. It’s been a really good education and fitness workout for everybody.”