Neil Woods on routine win for high flying youngsters...THE SADDLERS’ youth team returned from the Winter break to comfortably dispatch Rochdale 3-1 at Ray Hall Lane on Saturday to cement their place amongst the Football League Youth Alliance North-West Division’s leading pack.
The youngsters have been left frustrated in recent weeks with several postponements due to the weather and haven’t been able to bounce back from consecutive defeats before Christmas.
But a quick-fire double from the hard-working Cameron Peters and Maziar Kouhyar’s fifth league goal of the season ensured a routine win for the third-placed Saddlers.
And despite Callum Schorah grabbing a late consolation for the visitors, Neil Woods was delighted with the way his side after six weeks without a competitive fixture.
“I’m pleased with the lads. It’s always very difficult with youth players over the Christmas and New Year period because they have quite a long break from playing games,” said the Academy Manager. “I think you could see with both teams that their football legs weren’t quite there.
“I’m very pleased with what we did. Rochdale did something different to what we thought they would do first-half and although they had possession I thought we hurt them today. Peters scored twice inside the first 13 minutes of the match to cap an explosive start, with wingers Rory Oliver and Tobias Hayles-Docherty particularly rampant down the flanks.
He said: “Statistically, in the majority of the games this year when we’ve come in at half-time and been level or leading, we’ve won.
“We changed it a little bit to what we normally do to make us a little bit solider. But then Rochdale ended up playing three at the back, so our two wide players caused all sorts of problems at different spells in the first-half.
“We’re conscious that we don’t always start as well as we would like to and by the time we get going, we are always chasing the game, so it was nice to get a good start today.”
Peters caught Woods’ eye with another promising display. The striker has been deployed as the lone striker for the majority of the season and has worked tirelessly for the team, something which hasn’t gone unnoticed by his manager.
“I was delighted for Cameron. He’s a lovely kid that works really hard.” Woods said of Peters, who took his tally to five with a brace against the Mancunians.
“At times, he’s not as good on the eye as one or two of the others, but he’s a very effective player when he works with the sort of tempo that he has today. He’s a yard quicker than everybody thinks he is.
“He knows he has got to add more goals to his game, but I thought he was a real thorn in their side, particularly in the second half,” Woods added. “The second goal got a deflection but I think he got that through endeavour.
“Cameron is a first-year who plays regularly in the youth team, so he’s got to see the positives in that as well.”
Woods was also able to provide an update on the fitness of midfielder Nathan Owen and striker Brendan Pooni, who both suffered injuries before Christmas.
“Nathan and Brendan will both play in a friendly game against Nottingham Forest on Tuesday. Nathan will then be available,” he said. “Brendan might be another week or two after that because he’s missed a lot of football this year.”
“They’ll both come in when right and they’ll cause people in the team problems. They’re older, stronger and different to what we’ve got in the team at the moment.
“But if the lads who are playing keep putting in the performances like they have been, then it’s up to them two to get them out the team.”
The impending returns of Owen and Pooni mean that Woods is likely to have a fully-fit squad to choose from when the team hosts Preston at Ray Hall Lane in a couple of weeks (11am kick-off). In the meantime, they travel to Blackpool looking to close the gap on Wigan and Bury respectively.