Academy manager on Midland Youth Cup win...ACADEMY boss, Neil Woods, was overcome with joy after witnessing his side defeat Shrewsbury Town 2-1 to lift the Midland Youth Cup at the Banks’s Stadium on Monday evening.
A Tevin Shakespeare double cancelled out Josh Ginnelly’s opener for The Shrews to ensure that the youth team ended the season with a well-deserved piece of silverware.
And Woods was thrilled to see his side turn in a terrific performance which saw them claim their third victory over their opponents this season, two of those coming during the last week.
“We have had a long journey, we have been frustrating at times. But we played really well tonight and it was a great way to end the season,” he reflected. “I’ve got to give credit to Shrewsbury, I thought they played some excellent football at times and played their part in what was a terrific game.
“But I think if you look at the chances we created we deserved to win the game. Some of the saves their goalkeeper made were fantastic. The victory has been made much sweeter due to the quality of football we played today.”
He was able to call upon Rico Henry for only the seventh time this season due to the youngster’s progression into the first team, and Woods was full of praise for the youngster after the game.
“I had to plead with the gaffer to let him play today,” he joked. “You can see the difference he makes. He has such a big heart and such a fabulous attitude.
“He has such ability and he just controlled everything tonight.
“This will be the last time he plays for us, so we wish him well and I know he is going to have a really bright future in the game.”
Henry was one of six Saddlers’ youngsters playing their last game for the youth team and Woods was happy to see their time under him come to an end with a trophy.
“They will find out whether they will be kept on in the next few days, so it will be a bitter-sweet couple of days for some of them. But if it is their last game for the club, then they have gone out on a high and done themselves and the club proud.”
With the majority of his squad made up of first years, Woods hopes that this success will act as a solid foundation going into next season.
“We have got a lot of first years, so a lot of the lads will still be with us next year. Hopefully this can give them a taste for success going into next season.
“On our day, we are as good, if not better, than anyone in the League.”
This match brought the curtain down on what has been an indifferent campaign for the youngsters, but with the nucleus of the squad still around heading into the new season, Woods and his players have reason to be optimistic that this won’t be their last taste of silverware.
By ALEX DICKEN