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8 March 2023



8 March 2023

Nicky Eaden reflected on our U18s’ 4-1 victory over Coventry City on Tuesday afternoon, as his team stretched their unbeaten run in the Professional Development League to 13 games.

Two goals from Josiah Dyer were added to by Alex Joof and Hayden Pickard to open up a 17-point gap at the top of the table – and they had to leave it late to snatch all three points.

“I’m really happy with the result, but not so much with the performance,” began Eaden. “It was a really scrappy game, and we didn’t really adapt to Coventry. Sometimes you can do all the match prep and analysis on teams, but you never know what’s going to happen on the day.

“We believed Coventry would sit off us, which other teams have started doing lately with us being top of the league. Some teams sit deep and defend with numbers, which we expected to happen, but credit to Coventry – they attacked us from the off.

“We always speak about it in training, that you’ve got to play what’s in front of you; if they put the high press on, bypass it. We kept trying to fiddle our way through it, but Coventry played well and were organised and kept trying to press us, which we didn’t cope with too well.

“It’s the story of the season really, where we came good in the second half. Fair play to the lads for staying in the game and grinding things out, but I’ve said to them, when we’re two or three goals up we start playing some really nice stuff, but we’ve got to be doing that at 0-0. When you’re drawing, the game’s on a knife edge and that’s when the good players shine.

“Once you’re ahead you can relax, teams will come at you more to get back into the game which gives you more space. But we’re not always going to be two goals up, and it’s the players who step up and make sure that you get ahead that impress me.”

Eaden praised the spirit within the camp as the young Reds have put together an incredible run of form since the turn of the year.

Our U18s have picked up 29 points from their 11 outings in 2023 – a magnificent return, and it’s testament to the confidence and togetherness that runs throughout the entire squad.

“Some of the performances haven’t been fantastic but the boys have ground the results out,” continued Eaden. “Sometimes if you’re on a losing streak, it’s really hard to change that mentality, but when you’re on a winning streak you want to keep it going.

“You can get a mentality on how to win games, and we’re seeing that in the lads. Whether it’s having the energy for a 60-yard recovery run or bursting up the pitch, those small details might be the difference between winning and losing, which are things that you have to do to get these results.

“The lads should be confident that they can win every game. Without playing champagne football, they’re still finding ways to win games which is what you want; they learn from every game. We don’t have a set way of playing which we play regardless because we want our players to be adaptable.

“Like I always say, you’ve got to play what the game offers you. If you’ve only got one way to play, then the players don’t have to make decisions or think for themselves. Playing adaptively improves their decision making and they have to think quickly on the pitch.

“As coaches we can’t always sort everything out for them, we can change shapes and make subs, but once the game starts, they’re the ones making decisions.”

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