Academy Manager Robbie O'Keefe talks to us about the latest victory and looks ahead to tonight's FA Youth Cup tie...
Stevenage’s Under-18s extended their recent unbeaten run to six league games with a 5-2 win at Northampton on Saturday.
A hat-trick from Mickey Cregan and two goals from defender Charley O’Keefe saw Boro’s youngsters notch up their fourth straight league win ahead of tonight's FA Youth Cup first round tie at Ware.
Talking us through Saturday’s win, Academy Manager Robbie O’Keefe told us, “We didn’t start the game particularly well and got a little overrun in midfield, going down early to a deflected goal. For the first time this season we were a little bit all over the place tactically so we changed formation and got an extra man in midfield. We then scored five goals, so the move worked!
“We got back into the game through Charley with a left-footed volley from the edge of the area, then Mickey Cregan put us 2-1 up just before half-time, capitalising on a defensive mistake.
“In the second half we got pegged back to 2-2 with a fluke goal direct from a corner. It went in the far top corner and we had a man on the post, so there wasn’t much more we could have done about that.
“Zak Guerfi then put in a great ball for Mickey to make it 3-2. Liam Brady put in a deep free-kick to the far-post which Charley volleyed in for 4-2. Then Cregan completed his hat-trick right on full-time for 5-2, so it was a really good win.
“We also had a number of our Under-16s playing. Charlie Milton came on as goalkeeper in the second half, Arthur Ionton came on after half an hour, Jack Morrell came on and Joe Ryan also made his debut and did really well.
“We’re not even halfway through the season but we’re already only seven points off last year’s league total and only seven goals away from our entire league tally from last season.
“It was nice to get that win, which makes it five wins and a draw from our last six games heading into Thursday’s cup game. The early stages of the FA Youth Cup can often throw up tricky draws away from home to local clubs who you know a bit about, but not an awful lot. We certainly won’t be underestimating Ware but we know we’re in a really good place at the moment and scoring plenty, so hopefully we can keep that going.
“The FA Youth Cup has come for us at exactly the right time. If ever someone had said ‘when do you want to play’ we’d say ‘now’. We’re flying, virtually everyone is fit and we’ve got people really on form.”
Elsewhere in the Academy the younger age groups played Northampton at the weekend and won at every level, apart from the Under-16s who lost 1-0, although they had a number of players promoted to the Under-18s.
Robbie continued, “The Under-11s (draw), Under-12s (narrow defeat) and Under-13s (draw) all went to Leicester on Saturday and the week before had a great experience at Manchester City. That was a great experience for the kids and Man City were different class. The facilities are a world away from what we have and it gives us plenty of ideas, albeit there’s little chance of implementing many as we’re talking millions of pounds.
“We do, however, genuinely feel we are a top, top Cat 3 club in terms of players. We’re now setting new challenges for these players in terms of playing against better Cat 1 and Cat 2 clubs such as Leicester, Man City, Stoke and Liverpool and we’re competing.
"We’ve come an enormously long way in a short space of time as an academy. If we can match that pace of development in the next five years we can be a serious force.”
Tonight's FA Youth Cup tie is a 7pm kick-off at Ware's Wodson Park stadium. Tickets are £4 adults and £2 concessions.