Nicky Eaden gave his thoughts following our U18s’ tense Professional Development League play-off semi-final victory over Millwall on Saturday afternoon.
Emmaisa Nzondo’s dramatic late winner set up a final date with Charlton Athletic next weekend as our young Reds aim to create history this term.
“In the first half we were nowhere near it,” began Eaden. “We didn’t create enough and didn’t look to get any of our play going. It was scrappy and they matched us well, so we didn’t come out on top enough in our one v one duels.
“After the first couple of minutes in the second half, we started getting our play going a lot more by getting in and around their box and creating chances, so we were definitely well on top in the second 45.
“We’ve got to do more when we’re under it a bit like we were in the first half. It’s alright coming away with a point in league games, but this is a one-off fixture, and we need to win. Someone needs to do something extra to get the team going, whether it’s going for an extra run or doing something out of the ordinary and really pushing yourself trying to create something.
“A few of the lads started doing that in the second half by making runs in behind and stretching the game out, and that’s when the game suits us.”
After coming off the bench, Nzondo was the one who found the opener just before the final whistle to spark wild celebrations on the pitch at Oakwell.
Eaden praised the young forward, who has ended the season strongly having overcome personal issues and niggling injuries in the past few months.
“Emmaisa always gives you pace and energy,” discussed our U18s coach. “His work rate is top notch, and he deserved his goal. He was disappointed not to start but he’s answered that in perfect fashion.
“I’m proud of the lads. I’ve said to them that it’s one job to win the league, but we keep setting them targets and for the next game it’s to go out and win the play-offs.
“Charlton are a good side, they beat Sheff United comfortably with a good performance so we know it’s going to be tough, but we’ve got to prepare for it and do the best we can to end the season on a high.”