United’s under-18 side won both of their September league games, notching up eight goals along the way off the back of some decent performances.
Youth boss Mark Birch spoke to us this week about the victories over Rochdale and Oldham.
“The performance against Rochdale was exactly what we were looking for,” he said. “It showed us that things are starting to come together.
“We’re not looking to be spectacular in every game, and we accept that there are times where you’ve got to either grind games out or dig deep to get something from them.
“With that game they earned the right to play by coming out of the blocks really quickly. We got two goals off the back of that and we’d talked to them about starting at a high tempo.
“Credit to Rochdale because they got back into it and we had to see that period through. We didn’t panic after they’d scored and in the end I would have to say that we were well deserved winners.”
“It comes down to the attitude they’re all showing out on the pitch,” he added. “They’re keen to learn in training and they’re taking that into games.
“We want everything they do to be intense and we want them to be on it every day. We’re looking for them to approach training like it’s a game.
“These young players these days have a lot to take in, with individual and team learning objectives and the school and education work on top of that. They’re getting different things fired at them every day but this group is coping with that quite well.”
Moving on to the Oldham game and it was another very disciplined display that was matched by the comfortable feel to the end result.
“They were fantastic from minute one,” he confirmed. “Oldham did play some good stuff and we had to match them for work rate, or it might well have been different.
“We closed down when we needed to and we stopped them from getting too much of a head of steam, and for 20 minutes or so it was a good game of football.
“Neither team could find a way through, but we kept going and we wore them down. The goals that came after that were a reward for the work done through that opening spell of the game.”
“All five of the goals were good, to be fair,” he continued. “The easiest goal was a tap-in from about six yards, but it was our best goal on the day.
“Big Josh O’Brien got the first contact on one of their corners, and then we hit them on a counter. The willingness for lads to sprint and get forward was great to see and they covered 80-yards before putting it away.
“Mason [Hardy] got his hat-trick and he’ll be more than happy with that. What he needs to learn is that he has to be consistent.
“He has ability, he’s a great footballer, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s the consistency in games and on a daily basis that he needs to find.
“Dan [Hill] getting the other two goals will do his confidence good, because he has found it tough, at times. He got into the team, then he was out through injury, and then he was ill with Covid, so he’s had to face a few things that have made it tough.
“It’s been stop-start for him for 18-months with all of that and hopefully this will provide the springboard that allows him to kick on. It’s down to him to grasp the opportunity he now has to stay in the team.”
Still early in the season, nevertheless it’s once again encouraging to see the team battling at the top end with players involved at first-team level on a regular basis.
“Every reward they get, individually or collectively, has to be based on hard work,” he said. “If you look at League Two football, that’s what it’s all about.
“It’s actually the same in any walk of life. You get rewards if you do things properly. If they work hard they know we’ll be doing the other things that help them to improve technically, and they’ll really get to grips with that happens tactically, and that all stands them in good stead.
“One of the biggest messages we have for them at the moment echoes what the manager says. If you’re constantly running with a purpose it’s the baseline to getting results.
“That’s why Nic Bollado and Ryan Carr have been stepped up, with them making debuts. It’s fantastic for them.
“Over the last year in particular they’ve probably deserved what’s happened, and then they get a bit of luck with senior players being injured.
“That’s left gaps that needed to be filled, and what you have to have done as a youth player is to have put yourself in the manager’s eye just in case something like this happens.
“Again, it’s by working hard that you put yourself in the place where you’re the one Simmo thinks of. Then it comes down to taking the opportunity.
“For the academy staff it’s good to see that what we’re doing pays dividends, but it’s all down to the lads. And it also gives the coaches and players who are at our academy through the week a clear sight that there is a pathway.
“What everyone has to recognise is what that pathway consists of and how hard it is to make that progression.”
Next up is an away game at Morecambe this weekend.
“It’s a game we go into with confidence,” he told us. “We know that if we want to get something out of it, we’ve got to do everything properly.
“They beat us a couple of years ago and they have a team that will match us with work rate and physicality. It’s one for us to look forward to and we’ve got to go about it in the right way.
“Hopefully, if we do that, we’ll get a decent result and some more good individual performances.”
United v Rochdale – Boyd (Barry 81), Potts, Bell, Carr, Nugent, O’Brien, Maddison (Allan 68), Bollado, Hardy, Park (Fitzpatrick 79), Hetherington (Hill 63).
Goals – Bollado (4), Hardy (6), Nugent (78)
Bookings – Carr (66), Hardy (90), Fitzpatrick (90)
United v Oldham – Breeze, Allan (Walsh 66), Bell (Fleming 70), Carr, Nugent, O’Brien, Maddison, Hetherington (Fitzparick 61), Hardy, Park, Hill. Sub – Barry.
Goals – Hardy (15, 51, 84), Hill (44, 60)
Bookings – Carr (21), O’Brien (47)