Academy Manager Robbie O'Keefe reacts to FA Youth Cup victory...
Stevenage’s Under-18s advanced to the second round of the FA Youth Cup last night with a 3-0 win at Aveley and despite his side playing the final third of the game with 10 men, Academy Manager Robbie O’Keefe told us it was a comfortable win.
“I think we were really organised in our approach to the game. We went out there with a set idea on how we wanted to play and by and large we executed that well. I’m disappointed with Louis Yamfam obviously for his sending off and putting us under a little bit of pressure for a few minutes, but by and large I thought we were comfortable and really deserved the 3-0 win.”
After a first half which saw both teams grow into the game, Stevenage opened the scoring eight minutes before half-time through a poacher’s finish from Republic of Ireland Under-17 international striker Michael Cregan. However Boro had goalkeeper Billy Collins to thank for a late penalty save to preserve the goal advantage.
Reflecting on both events Robbie says, “That was a typical Mickey Cregan goal, finishing from there. He’s the only one in there tapping it in and it gave us a good bit of momentum. I thought Ben made a magnificent penalty save and really changed the game for us and took us into half-time leading. Then in the second half we pushed on and we were well worth the victory with two well taken goals.”
The two big talking points of the game came with that 45th minute penalty decision and then the dismissal of Louis Yamfam for a second yellow seven minutes after the break. Both threatened to derail Stevenage and many sides would have struggled, but O’Keefe was delighted with the response from his players.
“I thought they reacted well to both events. I thought the penalty was soft and the sending off was disappointing but I thought we managed the game from then on in really well. In fact I actually thought we were more comfortable with 10 men than 11 and still creating chances. That’s the good thing about this side and we said this before the game actually. One thing this team has in them is goals. We’re always confident of scoring, especially with the strike force we have.
"So all in all, it was a good night’s work. These are tricky places to come, lots of good clubs have come to these sorts of places and lost. We’ve not done that, we’ve stood firm and now move onto the next one in Round 2. We’re not sure if that’ll be Cambridge or Hayes & Yeading. We’ll go and watch that on Wednesday, we’ll do our same homework like we’d be expected to and prepare them accordingly for that game.”
Under-18s captain Matt Smyth also spoke to us after the game and said, "The boys did well. It was good to get a win in the circumstances, on a cold night away in Aveley. All the boys did well, especially down to 10 men. We didn’t give up and we worked hard for each other.
"I thought Billy did well in goal. Even in training before the game we were taking penalties and he was saving them, so it was good to see him save one in the game."
Talking about the surface at Aveley, which proved tricky at times for both sides, Matt says the lads took it in their stride: "The pitch was bobbly but most of us Irish lads are used to pitches like that. It was no problem for us and we had to get the ball down and play. I don’t think that had much of an effect on us."
"I didn’t get to play in the FA Youth Cup until the third round last year because my international clearance hadn’t come through. It was good to play in the first round this year and hopefully we can go further than last year."
Details of Stevenage's second round fixture will be released once confirmed. Click here to see the Under-18 results so far this season.