Academy Manager looks ahead to Tuesday's FA Youth Cup tie at home to Charlton...
Stevenage Under-18s return to FA Youth Cup action tomorrow night when Charlton Athletic visit in Round 2.
Ahead of the game we caught up with Academy Manager Robbie O’Keefe to discuss results since the first round victory over Ware and look ahead to the challenge of Tuesday night.
Since that extra-time win at Wodson Park a fortnight ago, Boro’s youngsters returned to league action just 40 hours later and a much-changed team suffered a late 1-0 defeat to Peterborough. They bounced back in style, however, with a 3-1 win over AFC Wimbledon this Saturday at Shephalbury.
Reflecting first on the defeat, which was the Under-18's first loss in six league games, Robbie told us, “It was very much a hangover from Thursday night and the lads struggled to get going. Only two players, Ben Wilmot and Charley O’Keefe, started this game who started at Ware and they only got 45 minutes, so it was very much a mix and match team.
“It was disappointing to lose as we’d be playing well, but I was more disappointed we had to play the game if I’m honest. I thought people could have done more for us to move that game but they didn’t. It was a disjointed display, a very flat performance and we paid the ultimate price and lost 3 points which could have us sitting clear in second place.
“However we had a really good week last week and normal service was resumed with a good win over AFC Wimbledon. We didn’t hit the heights of previous weeks but the consensus among the staff was that we were nearly very good. The final ball was just missing, which we haven’t been guilty of this season, but we still scored three goals. Our goals tally and our points tally keeps going up and up. Michael Cregan got another two and Luke Slater scored.
“We won 3-1, we’re two points off second in our division and we’re in a really good place. We’re closing in on our highest ever points total and closing in on the most goals we’ve ever scored in a league campaign and we’re not even at Christmas.”
Turning attention to Tuesday’s game against Charlton, Robbie went on to say, “We know a lot about Charlton. We’ve analysed their last half a dozen games and given the players as much information as we can without overloading them. We’ve highlighted their strengths, we’ve highlighted where we think we can exploit them with our strengths. They’re a good side and they’re a Category 2 academy side sitting top of their league so it’ll take a monumental effort to beat them. We have to be quite realistic with that and say that in terms of Academy categories, this is a Championship side playing against a League 2 side.
You’d expect them to come out but we’ve got a lot of faith in our players. We think they’re developing well, we think their game play is very realistic and the first team manager is incredibly supportive in their development. Every week we match up against first team players in 11 v 11s and we’re getting better in those scenarios against first team pros. The work that goes on behind the scenes is then being perfected on a Saturday.
“It’s nice for the players to get a home tie in this competition. It’s good for the kids to experience a game at The Lamex under the lights however one thing we know and that we say to the players is that 'if you have any aspirations to be a footballer then tomorrow won’t be your biggest game. You have to treat this game as another game to get you where you want to be.”
“We feel like we’re fully prepared, we’re fully fit and we’re in a good place!”
Tomorrow’s FA Youth Cup second round game is a 7pm kick-off at The Lamex Stadium. Only the West Stand will be open and tickets will cost £5 adults, £2 concessions.