Martin Devaney is encouraged by the U23s’ preparations for the upcoming Professional Development League campaign following his side’s 4-0 victory over Hemsworth Miners Welfare on Tuesday evening.
The young Reds have plundered 23 goals in just four pre-season outings and look full of confidence having kept back-to-back clean sheets.
“Psychologically, the lads have applied themselves really well to all four games so it’s pleasing,”asserted Devaney. “I think we’ve played some really good stuff and implemented the diamond in possession, which has gradually got better.
“But, so far, I’m pleased with them individually; they’re taking on the responsibilities and getting an understanding of how we want to play in that shape, and obviously the goals have helped with confidence leading into tougher games against Doncaster and Stoke.”
Several youngsters have stepped up from the U18s this season to bolster Devaney’s ranks, and all have particularly impressed so far – with Jordan Helliwell, Henry Kendrick and Jasper Moon linking up with Daniel Stendel’s first team squad in France and Germany.
Harry Gagen and Tommy Willard will also be with the U23s this campaign, and both featured towards the end of last term as the Reds recorded a record points tally.
“All of the lads have done really well,”admitted Devaney. “Henry, Jordan and Jasper have been with the first team, so it’s good to see them get some game time. Tommy has taken on board that number 10 role, so it’s a different challenge for him in terms of his movement and receiving skills and wanting to break lines and score goals.
“The whole team has done alright, slowly but surely, and with that there’s been a lot of trialists. We’ve had to manage that in the last three or four games in terms of getting game time, but probably a little bit behind in terms of how long we want them to be playing – they should be hitting the 60 or 70 minute mark, but they haven’t been able to do that. We’ll see how the next two games go and hopefully the lads will be fit and raring to go.”
Playing non-league opposition provides a different sort of challenge for the U23s, who face more physical opposition than what they can expect to encounter during the domestic campaign.
But Devaney believes that his players have coped well in their pre-season outings and is pleased with how his preparations are going.
“These games can be really tough – in all four games that we’ve played the lads have worked really hard and given me everything,”continued the U23s coach. “In most of the games, the opening 30 minutes have been frantic but we’ve been able to ride that wave and our fitness has taken over, particularly in the second half.
“The physicality isn’t something that we’re going to encounter every week; that’s why we play these games and it’s good for the community.
“But we won’t change the way that we play, we know it’s going to be tough and, in terms of taking on board the things that I’ve challenged them with they’ve done really well so credit to the players so far and credit to them for the shape they’ve come back in.”