Robins Youth: Lads are responding well to a steep learning curve
Russell Milton's weekly column:
WE DREW 0-0 with Yeovil Town last weekend and we were slow to start, finding ourselves up against it for 20 minutes.
There seemed to be little cohesion between the lines of the team as we were caught a little off guard.
Certainly for the last hour we were the better side and created numerous opportunities to score in the second half, with Joe Hanks, James Bowen, Owen Donaghue and Adam Powell missing when it looked easier to score.
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On another day we'd have won by four or five, but at least the boys showed a desire and effort to get in to these positions and weren't afraid to miss.
The second half of the Yeovil game also saw the introduction of Lewis Morana, a second year scholar from Exeter who is spending three weeks with us with a view to being taken on for the remainder of his scholarship.
He is a good size, shows a tight first touch and above average pace for someone of 6ft 2in.
Within a minute of coming on he could have put us in front, showing some of the aforementioned attributes to get one on with the keeper only to see his shot saved. The relief on Scott Green the Yeovil coach's face was clear to see after the final whistle.
This now sees us having won one, drawn one and lost one after three games, having scored five and conceded two.
All three performances have had good, bad and indifferent parts to them as you would expect from 16 and 17-year-old lads who are learning the game, but overall there are very encouraging signs that we have a good squad of youth players, all of whom contribute something different to the team.
The past couple of months have seen a big learning curve for the boys with a lot of games and information to take on board to make them better
We had the trip to Holland and have played teams from there, Germany and Japan.
The touring Japanese side we played two weeks ago were technically excellent and rarely played the ball more than ten yards to each other, with short passing and very good interchanging of positions.
Naturally the boys hadn't seen anything like this before and it took until half-time to sort things out where we were 1-0 down.
Adaptability is always a major part of football and it was pleasing to see us come out in the second half, recognise the oppositions strengths and movements and overturn the deficit into a 2 -1 win, with goals from Under-16 Jay Taylor and second year scholar Owen Donaghue.
Another incentive for good performances from the scholars is gaining a place in any reserve team fixture and it was pleasing to see second years Mike Gonzalo and Kieran Thomas perform well against a Danny Bailey Academy side last week and Gonzo again, Dale Reaney, Joe Hanks, Owen Donaghue (who scored) and Adam Powell play a significant part in the game against Kidderminster last Monday.
Exposure in these games will help the boys extend their knowledge of the game and get them out of the comfort zone of youth football.
Those that adapt well will continue to progress. Both Mike and Kieran have performed consistently well now for a season along with Joe Hanks, who has deservedly been given a first team squad number for the season.
One thing's for sure the boys wont be allowed to ease up as they look to carve out a career in the game. Results further down the system from the 16s to the nines over the past two to three weeks have been encouraging with the 16s ( led by Tommy Callinan and Keith Knight) in particular going well with four wins out of four including a win against a strong Bristol City side.
The hard work put in by the Academy staff , people like Dave Strain, scout Roger Hyett, Antoine Thompson and Lloyd Parsons can never be underestimated and taken for granted as often it is a labour of love for them with the involvement in the game being a major factor for everyone of them.
Ably led by my old teammate Jamie Victory I'm sure these age groups will continue to thrive and get stronger.