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16 January 2022

Our U18s claimed a 2-2 draw against Hull City in their final game of the PDL Cup group stage, continuing their unbeaten run in the competition.

Goals from Alex Anaman and Josiah Dyer were pegged back by two strikes from a Tigers trialist amongst the fog in East Yorkshire.

With our young Reds having already secured safe passage heading into the encounter, it gave Tom Harban an opportunity to experiment with different players; players who impressed him with their performance on Saturday.

“I’m pleased,” began our U18s coach. “We decided to give the lads who have not been featuring as much as they’d like a run today, because of the state of the competition.

“We just said to them before the game go out and prove that you should be playing, and I think a lot of them put in really good performances.”

After going one down in the match, our U18s boss was pleased with his side’s character in mounting a response.

“We went 1-0 down, but we showed character to come back and equalised just before half-time through Alex Anaman who put in a massive shift throughout the game for us, so deserved his goal,” continued Harban.

“The likes of Alex Joof, Theo Chapman, Josh McKay – his first game back for the U18s since injury – so really pleased, yes.

“They did really well. I think the biggest thing is they need to be ready and be pushing to start in the league games so that was the challenge thrown down to them, can you put yourselves in our minds – mine and Briggsy’s (Keith Briggs) mind – if we think that we’re going to put you in we know that you’re ready to go.”

With each side’s fates in the PDL cup already sealed, it would have been easy for both teams to take their foot off the gas. However, the encounter was a competitive one, this desire to compete is one of the main principles of Harban’s style of football.

“We want to go and win every game,” he asserted.

“I’ve said that to the lads. We need to be in a mindset of ‘yes, winning’s not the be all and end all’, but it helps in terms of confidence and the main thing is at the minute is that we’re getting performances with it which is the most important thing.

“The big thing I’ve said to them before is we’ve come back from the break, we beat Wigan last Saturday, it’s all about momentum. It’s an important part of the game, having momentum. When you’re on form your confidence is high, players play a bit more freely and when it’s down and you’re in a little bit of a rut, those things are a little bit more different to come by.”

Up next for our U18s is a South Yorkshire derby crunch match back in the league, as we visit Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday. With both sides being near the top of the table, Harban emphasised that the message to his players is the same as for every game.

“We’re going there, we want to win, we want to compete, we want to put our style of game into the match,” Harban affirmed.

“When we played them at home, I think they dictated to us a little bit in terms of how we ended up playing, going a little bit more direct than what we would have liked, so I think the biggest thing throughout the next week is we do the work and we make sure next Saturday that we put our stamp on the game and we play with our identity and hopefully that’ll get us a positive result at the end of it.”

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