After the under-18s grabbed a stunning late cup win at Plymouth Argyle on Wednesday, Alan Connell praised his side’s steely mentality.
Following on from the 10-0 win over Cheltenham on Saturday, the youth team faced far more challenges against the Pilgrims, coming through with a 2-1 win and cup progression.
The hurdles came from a robust opposition, the heavy and bobbly pitch and the loss of players from the line-up due to members performing for the under-21s at Wycombe on Tuesday.
Aaron Roberts had given Connell’s side a perfect start in the Youth Alliance Cup tie at Bolitho Park, but after being pegged level before half time the winner finally came with the very last attack of the game, blasted home by Matt Burgess in the box.
After the match, Connell spoke with afcb.co.uk about the performance: “It was a really tough game, which is exactly what we expected.
"They made it difficult for us by pressing us, by fighting for the ball and showing moments of quality but I felt in the large part that we dealt with everything they threw at us.
“There was the moment where we conceded the goal but other than that we blocked shots, stopped crosses, defended a lot of aerial balls, all on what was a very difficult pitch.
“The players did all the things that no-one wants to do and our quality came out at times. Above all, what this group ha got and what they’ve shown is that steeliness, they’ve gone to the very end and they’ve got their rewards for how they apply themselves every single day.
"Moments like these are the rewards they get, I made them realise that.
“There were loads of lessons from today but overall I’m delighted with their spirit in a tough cup game away from home. It was an early start, a long journey, all the usual cliches, so I’m delighted for them.
“We had an under-21s game yesterday, we had players in there who weren’t 100% fit and couldn’t start today, three started yesterday and came on for us and Aaron Roberts played 45 yesterday and the full 90 today.
“That character is what this club’s built on, it has been in the 18 years that I’ve been here, and the players represented the club in a really positive manner again today.”
Connell praised the team ethic evident in his squad, with a number of players turning out in challenging situations.
“I said to Matt Burgess afterwards, I didn’t think he played his best game but he’ll get the headlines for his goal in the last minute and I said to the boys that it’s so important to enjoy these moments as a team.
“When you’ve been through the mill with your team-mates but then get the result that you wanted you have to enjoy that.
“Owen Palmer’s just come back from injury and was still not fully fit, Noa Boutin started his first match in six weeks, we had knocks to other players, but that’s what you have to deal with sometimes.
“You have to be robust, be resilient and put your body on the line, they did that today and gave me everything. We’re in a good place at the moment and it’s important that we capitalise on that.”