Our Under-18s maintained their 100 per cent record so far this season with a win over Aston Villa, but Ed Brand feels his team needs to learn from a tough second half if they are to continue extending that run.
The 1-0 victory over the Villans was our fourth win in as many games at Under-18s level this season, but we didn’t have things all our own way at Cobham, as we had to hold on to our narrow lead with tired legs in the closing stages, a situation Brand thinks was avoidable, even if he was happy with much of the performance.
‘On the whole I’m very pleased,' he said. ‘I stressed that to the boys. We break for the international week now and I was conscious, because of the manner of the game and how it ended, with Villa coming on strong late on, that I didn’t want it to feel like a defeat.
‘It looked like we were clinging on a little bit towards the end, because for the first hour or so I thought we were excellent and the game should have been out of sight. But it’s becoming a common theme at the moment that we’re dominant, playing really well, but not taking chances and eventually that’s going to come back and haunt us. But this time luckily it didn’t, we got another three points and four wins out of four is an encouraging start.’
However, those challenging final stages of the match were no surprise to Brand, who was expecting fatigue to play a part in the game after putting his players through a gruelling regime in the build-up to this match
‘We rode our luck a little bit in the second half. In the first half we were good without the ball, but in the second half we tired a little bit. I knew that was going to be the case. It’s been a tough week for the boys, deliberately so, because you’ve got to challenge them, not only technically and tactically, but physically they need to get more robust.
‘In the first half Villa didn’t pose much threat and I was quite happy with us, then we tired and the game got stretched. But that’s why we need to take our chances when we are on top and we had to be better with the ball in the last 20 minutes too. When you’re tired you have to look after the ball, start taking it side to side and just keep it a little bit more to control the game. We didn’t do that well enough and that’s a lesson they’ll learn.’
The desire of the players was also in evidence, with both Armando Broja and Marcel Lewis starting the match despite being involved with the development squad the previous evening, coming off the bench late on in the 2-2 draw with Tottenham in Aldershot.
‘They didn’t play for too long last night and both of those lads, Armando and Marcel, are fit boys. So it’s not an issue for them going Friday and then Saturday, especially when they only got five or 10 minutes the previous night. They were very keen and eager to play and start against Villa, and Armando got our goal again, continuing his streak.
‘But I also thought Sam McClelland was very good at centre-half and Dion Rankine put a real shift in, especially in the first half. He was a real livewire and a constant threat.’