After seeing his side come out on top in a seven-goal thriller at Cobham, Under-18s head coach Ed Brand is pleased with what he is learning about his players.
Having taken charge of our Under-18s team over the summer, Brand and his players opened the campaign with a win at champions Arsenal, before making it two victories from as many matches by defeating West Ham United 4-3 in our first home game of the season.
Despite a good performance, it wasn’t plain sailing, as the Hammers came back from a goal down with two quick-fire strikes to go in ahead at the break, but we fought straight back to build an unassailable lead after half-time, even if the visitors pulled one back late on.
‘We played some really good stuff and scored four goals,’ said Brand. ‘But we probably should have scored more – we weren’t ruthless enough, especially in the first half – and had lapses in concentration. Goals change games and them equalising and then scoring again in quick succession in the first half knocked our confidence a little bit.
‘At half-time it was all about how we had done so many good things, but it was now about showing character and having faith and belief in the things we did in the first half and we’ll get chances. To be fair to the boys they started the second half really well, got the penalty, got ahead and in control of the game again, even if then the last few minutes were a little bit more nerve-wracking.’
With this being Brand’s first season in charge of the Under-18s, players and coach are still learning about each other, but the man in the dugout likes what he has seen so far and is happy his squad is living up to the high recommendation of his assistant James Simmonds, who worked with many of them in the Under-16s side last term.
‘I was incredibly pleased because I’m still getting to know this group quite well,’ he added. ‘Simmo, who has coached them for the last couple of years, always backs them and says they have lots of character and I believe him. That was the challenge for them at half-time, there’s a question to answer and we will find out about you lot. You could tell that they were motivated to put it right and you could tell at the start of the second half how determined they were.’
After the Blues hit the back of the net four times against West Ham, Brand was also understandably pleased with his team’s attacking threat, especially the performance of striker Armando Broja, who scored a brace to make it three goals in two games for the Under-18s this season.
‘Broja was excellent last week and excellent again in this game. He’s in the goals and he deserves the praise that’s coming his way.
‘Going forward we’ve got so much pace in the team and clever players. Myles Peart-Harris was very good again as the No10, but defensively we’ve just got to cut out the sloppy mistakes. Defensively against Arsenal the team were excellent, but this time there were just some sloppy individual errors and they can cost you.’