Speaking after our U23s’ 1-1 draw with Bristol City on Monday afternoon, Bobby Hassell praised our young Reds’ performance on Oakwell in the Professional Development League.
A late opener from Jordan Helliwell for the Reds was quickly cancelled out by Sam Bell for the visitors, meaning the spoils were shared on a cloudy afternoon in South Yorkshire.
Despite only claiming a point, our youngsters had a number of good chances within the match, and Hassell believes the Reds should have come away from the game with more.
“I thought the lads were excellent,” he began. “We had five players that started the game that played 90 minutes on Saturday, either for our U18s or out on loan. It was a big physical ask for them, and then we obviously had to make changes at half-time, and that disrupts the flow of things.
“But overall, I thought we thoroughly deserved to win the game. We had the better of the chances, and as I said, up until 60 or 70 minutes, we should be two, three nil up. They dominated the last 20 but that’s only through our fatigue and lack of concentration, but overall, we were excellent.”
While there were plenty of opportunities to breach the Robins’ backline, Hassell feels our U23s could have created more openings throughout the contest.
Our Academy Manager says the youngsters just lacked a quality final ball on occasion, but it’s a work in progress.
“I’ve just said to them after, it’s about the final pass,” he discussed. “Once they’re getting into the final third and they get in good positions in and around the box, then they’ve got to calm down and choose the right pass.
“It was just a yard in front, so people are stretching and they’ve got to have another touch, and by that time, to be fair to Bristol City, they made some really good recovery tackles.
“We had a stonewall penalty that the ref didn’t give, we had a couple of one on ones that we’ve got to do better with, but again it was the final pass. Put that into the game, they’re probably three nil up.
“Bristol City are top of their league. We’ve put a team together and didn’t know until two hours before who’s fit and who’s going to be playing. So, we’ve not been able to work on anything, and then obviously Martin and Tom have gone up to the first team. Everything was a bit rushed, but the lads have put a great performance in.”
Absences and injuries, however, provide opportunity for some of our youngsters who are on the periphery of our U23s squad, and today playing on Oakwell was a valuable experience according to Hassell.
“Yeah, it’s great!” he exclaimed. “Especially out on the pitch, a few fans in here so they get to experience playing out on Oakwell. It bodes well for them for next year.
“The 18s have been exceptional this year and obviously we’re looking like we might be in the play-offs – they’re second at the minute. They’re on good form, and you can see by the way they came on and did the right things that we preach at the football club, certainly out of possession stuff, they were excellent.”