Coach Alan Connell insisted AFC Bournemouth’s EFL Youth Alliance title decider against Plymouth Argyle would be “a great experience” for his young players.
The table-topping Cherries face-off against the second-placed Pilgrims at Canford Park Arena on Saturday with the South West Division championship on the line (11.30am kick-off).
Connell’s team set up the showdown with the Devon outfit after triumphing 2-0 against third-placed Portsmouth at Dorchester Town’s Avenue Stadium on Tuesday.
A Marcus Daws penalty and a finely-taken effort from Baylin Johnson saw the Cherries draw level on 34 points with Plymouth – Connell’s team having a goal difference of 17 compared with Plymouth’s 13.
Daws, Owen Bevan, Noa Boutin, Owen Palmer and Ferdinand Okoh were the five second-year scholars in the matchday squad, the other players all first years and under-16s, including goalkeeper Noah Crisp who made his league debut against Portsmouth.
Connell told afcb.co.uk: “Plymouth will be coming here to try to win the game and finish top of the table and so will we.
“It promises to be a really entertaining watch and a great experience for both sets of players.
“To have the chance to play in a title decider as part of their development will be great for them and it will be interesting to see how they react.
“It’s going to be exciting for the players, their families and all the staff. Plymouth are a good side and are very well coached by Darren Way.”
Discussing the performance against Portsmouth, Connell added: “I was pleased to win the game. As I said to the players, when you win any game, there are a lot of things you must have done right.
“I thought our performance was controlled and we dominated the ball from start to finish. At times, we had to be patient on the ball.
“Sometimes, when a team drops off, you can get caught between controlling the game and not putting enough urgency into it to try to hurt the opposition. I felt we got caught in between a little.
“Saying that, our goalkeeper was untroubled and was well protected by our defensive display. To get a clean sheet against Portsmouth is encouraging.
“I felt we could have been a little more productive in the attacking third. But we scored a penalty, a well-worked goal and could have had a couple more. I thought it was a controlled performance without really kicking on and being at our best.”
Discussing the goals, Connell said: “I’ve seen one replay of the penalty and it looked like their player came in from the side and took out Lewis first. The referee was right on the scene so he had a better view than me.
“It was a really nice combination down the left for the second goal involving Noa Boutin, Marcus Daws and Baylin Johnson.
“Credit to Baylin because he’s the sort of lad who always wants to do extra and always wants to work on his finishing.
“His finish today was like the ones he’s always doing after training. It’s always nice when those moments come up in games for these young players and he took his goal really well.”