Speaking after our U18s 3-0 victory against Wigan Athletic on Saturday, Tom Harban praised his team’s approach in the first half of the game.
Goals from Ben Hall and Fabio Jalo before the interval, along with a third added by Mylan Benjamin after the break sealed all three points for the young Reds.
“I think in the first half we were excellent, dominated the game and stuck to the game plan that we’d worked on throughout the week,” began Harban.
“The energy, particularly first half I thought the way we went about them, the way we hunted them and pressed them, was really, really good. The discipline in terms of their roles, what we’d asked of them before the game, everybody performed their job really well to a man.”
The second half was not as comfortable however for our U18s and Wigan showed the fighting spirit that makes them one of the better outfits in the division.
Harban was keen to emphasise the precarious nature of a 2-0 score line in football to his side, who saw out the contest well to maintain their excellent form in the Professional Development League.
“We got our noses in front early doors, 2-0 at half-time which is a dangerous score line, we spoke about that at half-time,” he continued.
“In the second half, you expect a reaction from Wigan which we got, and I just thought we made the game scrappy; we gave them opportunities to attack us, and we weren’t to the standards that we were in the first half.
“I’ve said to them it’s a learning curve, you have to manage games better but overall, I’m pleased with the result and pleased with the performance.”
This was our U18s first outing of 2022, and it was a fine performance which merited all three points as our youngsters kept pace with leaders Coventry City following their 2-1 victory at Crewe Alexandra.
With such a positive campaign so far, Harban is aiming for his side to take it one game at a time and see what happens.
“We spoke to them before the game, we ended last year really positively against Crewe – I thought it was one of the best performances we’ve had – and I just asked them to pick up where we left off,” discussed our U18s coach.
“We want to win every game. We want to win every game in the right manner in terms of performance both collectively and individually. Then just see where it takes us. Hopefully we’re up near the top end of the table.
“We set targets every year that we want to be better than the previous year, and every year is getting a bit more difficult because we’re doing alright each year, so the target is every game, to go out and be really positive, no setbacks and just see where we end up.”
Next up for our U18s is a visit to Sheffield Wednesday in the South Yorkshire derby, with the Owls also going strong near the summit.
Their 2-1 win at Peterborough United this weekend keeps them a point behind with two games in hand, which adds a little extra spice to what is sure to be a fierce encounter.
“The last game, I just didn’t think we were at the races against Sheffield Wednesday; a scrappy game,” admitted Harban. “They’re performing really well; they’ve got a striker in there that’s scoring a lot of goals so it’s going to be tough.
“It’s a local derby, away from home, but I think if we approach the game right and we perform the way we can, we can cause Sheffield Wednesday problems and hopefully come away with a positive result.”