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YOUTH: We have to learn from it

FA Cup reaction from youth boss Mark Birch

1 November 2023

Club News

YOUTH: We have to learn from it

FA Cup reaction from youth boss Mark Birch

1 November 2023

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It was a game of two halves for the under-18 side at Brunton Park on Tuesday night as they first took the lead against Barnsley, only to see the night slip away during a devastating 15-minute spell immediately after the break.

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“The game plan was to stay in the game, compete with them, get to half-time and make sure we were still in it, because we do know that they’re a very good side,” youth boss Mark Birch told us. “They’re high up in their league this season, they won it last season, and that doesn’t happen for no reason.

“We wanted to frustrate them and see if we could catch them when we had our moments, which we did. The lads were full of it at the start of the game and that’s what got us ahead.

“Unfortunately we’ve seen again that we’ve got to be better at overcoming disappointments. When they got their equaliser you could see our lads were deflated, and that’s when they started to lack belief.

“We got to half-time and all we could say to the lads was that we were well in it. All we wanted was to see them continue to do the same things, stay tight, keep competing, and then look to capitalise on the moments we created.

“The fact is we can’t defend like we did in the second half. And I’m not just talking about the defenders, I’m talking about all over the pitch.

“We had people not taking up positions early enough and giving options off the ball, people not moving in relation to the ball, people switching off and allowing players to run off them, and we had 15 minutes where I have to say we were lucky not to concede more than the three goals we conceded.”

“To be fair to Barnsley they smelled blood and they went for us,” he added. “We were on our knees as soon as the first goal after the break went in.

“It’s a lesson that our lads have got to learn quickly because this sort of thing has happened far too often this season. When they concede the floodgates can open and it’s finding the resilience to stop that from being the case.

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“They have to find a way to pick themselves up, shut up shop after they let a goal in and work their way back into it. We couldn’t do that, and Barnsley ran away with it.

“The disappointing thing is that we were absolutely fantastic for most of the first 45 minutes. We matched them and we probably had more moments around the box than they had. We told the lads at half-time that they were involved in a proper game of football.

“It was real football match, against a good team, and we were playing our part in it. The important thing was to stay with it and do it all again in the second half.

“We knew there were going to be parts of the 45 minutes where we would be under pressure, but we also knew we’d get our moments if we kept doing the right things, as we had been doing.

“But if you start a half the way we did you’re going to get punished and, if you concede two or three, it’s near impossible to get the momentum going again.”

As Barnsley pulled the trigger and scored the goals it started to look more unlikely that the Blues would find a way to bounce back.

“We keep telling the lads that they’ve got to put the past behind them and move onto the next situation,” he commented. “You can’t dwell on the mistake that’s been made, you can’t think about the goal that’s just been conceded.

“You’ve got to reset and think about the next positive moment you can influence. That’s how you stay in games, especially against teams like that. If you concede one, don’t let another in straight away.

“If you do, dig in and go again. We didn’t manage to respond positively at all and that’s why it got away from us.”

A real positive from the night was the quality of the goal from Aran Fitzpatrick.

“That’s what he’s capable of doing, but he’s got to realise that we need to see the moments that can come in his game more often,” he said. “He’s another who has great ability as a footballer, but he’s got to be the one to influence things more often.

“He could be a player to take games by the scruff of the neck but he has to believe in himself that he can do that.

“There were too many of our lads in the second half who stepped off it, and I don’t think there were any of them who won their personal battle. The frustrating thing is that it was the complete opposite in the first half, we were on top in most areas.

“The lads are all really disappointed, but that’s football. The chance to play under the lights and put on a performance to catch the eye was there. They did it for 45 minutes, but everyone will remember the second half because it cost us the game.

“If you’re going to go on to have a career in football at this level there’ll be a lot more lows than highs. What we’re looking for from these lads now is who can bounce back.

“Who can overcome the disappointment of the night and come in to training in the morning with their heads held high and ready to go again.

“I want to see who it is who is saying, right, I need to work hard on my game to get better. At this level, with under-18s, you do have to take positives from every situation and with that in mind, they showed us in the first half just how capable they are.

“But at the same time we have to ask why the second half happened the way it did. Everybody wants to win and do well, me more than anybody.

“I hate losing, but we’ve got to be realistic within the disappointment that we are where we are as a team and we have to look to work out why these situations happen. If we can start to focus in on that we can then ask if we can improve on it.

“This one has gone, we now have to improve on it and get back to the business of winning games. If we can show that we can identify mistakes, and learn from them, that will be a big positive to come out of what has been a really frustrating 45 minutes of football.

“We’ll keep working, we’ll get there, so that we’re making fewer of the mistakes that we’re seeing at the moment.”

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