Cheltenham Town: Russell Milton's youth in focus column
AS PREDICTED in last week's column the next three games in the South West Youth Alliance would be a decent test for us, and so it has proved so far.
The game against Oxford United last week was a very close affair and one I felt we should have got something out of, despite going down 1-0 to a very soft goal from a free-kick.
They have the two best forwards as a pairing in the league and use them to good advantage, getting the ball forward very quickly and immediately putting the back four and keeper under pressure.
Elliott Keightley and Spencer Hamilton particularly performed very well, coping on many occasions with the questions they were asked.
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Roberts and O'Dowda (the Oxford strikers) have an instinctive knack of knowing where the other is and is going to run, something pretty rare at youth level.
Left-back and future scholar Danny Reynolds made his debut in this game and came through admirably, showing defensive awareness, good distribution and a willingness to get forward.
At nearly 6ft and with a sweet left foot and energy to burn I think Danny will be a major asset to the squad next season, and on this showing my thoughts were confirmed.
That's ten wins in a row for Oxford now – a fantastic feat at any level.
On to Exeter on Tuesday and a chance to avenge the 6-3 beating we took down there in October.
The game ended in a 2-2 draw, a very entertaining affair that could have gone either way.
Joe Hanks opened the scoring from 20 yards against the run of play with a shot into the bottom corner, and another soft goal conceded direct from a free-kick this time saw the game at 1-1 at half-time.
A well-earned penalty coolly taken by Zack Kotwica saw us back in front and from here we should have gone on to win the game, missing several very good chances.
So one point from two games, but two good performances against two of the better sides in the league.
This morning we play another good and physically strong side in Bristol Rovers at their facility just off the M5 (11am).
Since the Christmas break that's now ten points out of 15 with five good performances and on another occasion could have been better.
I do feel the lads are getting more acquainted to being full-time footballers with every week that passes.
And we have an increasing awareness of the ingredients needed to gain professional status.
One thing that does go slightly against us is the number of first-year scholars we have compared to other clubs.
Most weeks we play six or seven at least, and when chatting to other clubs' coaches their teams have tended to be largely second years.
Certainly next season we should be very strong and up there challenging at the top of the league.
You may have seen over the past couple of days we will be offering trials on March 23 to 24 to any budding players out there who want the chance to maybe gain a trainee, scholarship or pro contract at the club.
These are over two days and consist of training sessions covering techniques, possession drills, game situations and matches.
The days run from noon till 4pm, with the second day being largely match based.
Detailed feedback will be given to every player at the end of the two days and hopefully an opportunity to progress further.
For further details see the Cheltenham Town official website or email email@example.com