Youth Team Boss pleased with youngsters response...YOUTH Team boss, Neil Woods, was pleased with the way his side bounced back from their FA Youth Cup exit in midweek to beat Tranmere Rovers 2-0 at Ray Hall Lane on Saturday.
The visitors had previously topped the Football League Youth Alliance North-West Division, but first-half goals from Kyle King and Maziar Kouhyar gave the Saddlers a well-deserved victory and saw them leapfrog their opponents.
And Woods was pleased to get such a convincing response after the 4-1 defeat to Coventry City last week.
He said: “First and foremost, I’m very pleased with the boys. “I thought Coventry were better than us on Wednesday but I don’t think it was a 4-1 result, so for their confidence they needed to put a performance in like they’ve put in today.
“Some of them were tired but their attitudes were tremendous. First-half was as good as we’ve played all year and I thought defensively in the second-half we were very strong.”
Woods’ men blitzed Tranmere in a scintillating first-half display, King found the net inside 24 seconds with Kouhyar adding a second after nine minutes. But Woods felt his team could have heaped further misery on the visitors in the opening period.
“If we are being really, really ruthlessly critical, we should have been 4-0 up at half-time but the football and the way they started was brilliant,” he added. “They were bright in training on Friday.
“The biggest plus today was that we kept a clean sheet, defensively they were a lot more aware of potential dangerous situations.”
Woods was able to utilise his squad and make four changes to the side that lost in midweek. He brought in Jamie Smith for his first start of the season while Raekwan Smith, Will Shorrock and Kyle King also came into the team. Nine of the starting XI were second-years and Woods admitted he is keen not to overuse some of the first-years who have been exposed to a lot of game time so far this season.
“Most of the lads that dropped out were first-years. For a first year to play Wednesday and then on Saturday, in the type of games that they are as well, is very difficult.
“We have just got Jamie Smith back from a long layout which is a massive plus and I thought he was outstanding today. We’ve got a squad of 19 and hopefully Brendan Pooni will start training again next week so we should have a full fit squad to choose from.
“We have been doing very well with a young team, we have had five or six first-years out every week, with three of them being in the back four,” added Woods. “They need help and guidance from the more senior lads, just like the second-years do when they go up into the reserves.”
The only negative from the game was the withdrawal of Nathan Owen after 30 minutes due to injury and Woods is hoping he won’t be without his midfielder for long.
“It was a tackle that was slightly high and it has caught him on his ankle. It’s a pity because Nathan was doing very well. Hopefully he won’t be out too long with it.”
The Saddlers now sit second in the league, just one point behind new leaders Bury. The youth team travel north to face Burnley next weekend before returning to Birmingham County FA headquarters to face Port Vale the following Saturday (11am kick-off).