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31 July 2022

Following a dominant display at Stocksbridge Park Steels, Tom Harban spoke about how pleased he was with his side’s improvement throughout pre-season.

Players have got minutes in the legs over the past month or so, and performances have generally been solid in a productive summer for our youngsters.

“We’ve had four games now, and each game we’re showing bits of improvement in terms of what we’ve been working on and what we’re asking for,” began Harban.

“We managed to get 90 minutes into a good chunk of the lads again, and with the season being just over a week away, hopefully they’ll be ready to go.”

Striker Fabio Jalo continued his fine form with two first half goals, and Harban highlighted his importance to the team, even at such a young age.

“He has picked up from where he left off last season,” discussed our U23s coach. “In pre-season he’s looking fit, he’s looking strong, and he has come into full-time football for the first time after leaving school.

“Fabio will be a threat this season because he puts himself in areas where he knows the ball is probably going to end up.

“He took his two goals well and also worked his socks off for the team in a defensive role. I was really pleased with his overall performance today.”

Leading 2-0 at the interval – courtesy of Jalo’s brace – there was always a danger that complacency might creep in as the contest wore on.

But the young Reds maintained their high level of intensity and Harban feels it was a more rounded performance after the break.

“The first half was a scrappy affair,” he continued. “I think we were a little bit rushed in everything we did. Apart from the two goals we scored, we didn’t get into enough good areas to create good clear-cut chances.

“I was really pleased with the second half. I thought we played some really good football and defended well. We managed to press and put pressure on Stocksbridge high up the pitch and cause them lots of problems which was pleasing.

“In the second half I thought we got into some positive areas. We put some good deliveries into the box and were able to keep the ball in wide areas.”

Up against the physical demands of a senior outfit, there were concerns that set-pieces would prove to be decisive in our own final third.

But Harban praised his side’s resilience and concentration at defending, highlighting the hard work put in on the training ground.

“I thought we defended excellently,” he insisted

“We’ve struggled with set plays so far in pre-season. We worked on them because we knew Stocksbridge would be a big and physical side. We defended them really well and, in general, we defended the box superbly throughout the game. The back five defended well when they had to.

“In the second half, the front two helped us out and got back into shape a lot quicker than the first half which enabled them to land on a lot of second balls and clearances.”

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