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U18s begin Merit League with Gills win


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

The under-18s got their condensed six-game Merit League campaign off to a flying start as they won 2-0 away at Gillingham on Saturday.

Jake Adams netted inside two minutes with a fine individual effort after the visitors played out well from a goal kick. Adams then had two further opportunities, while 'keeper Josh Clarke was called into action to make a good save.

Passing the ball well, the Cherries withstood pressure well, heading in the break with their lead intact.

Marcus Daws then scored shortly after the restart, the Cherries winning the ball back, playing wide to Ajani Burchall who found his team-mate, Daws striking into the net with a confident low finish.

Clarke made further saves to retain the away side's strong position in the contest, Bournemouth also making chances to add to their scoreline as they saw out their strong away performance.

Alan Connell's side was a particularly young one, with two second years from the under-18s set up, three first years, and all the other starters coming from the under-16s squad and gaining invaluable experience.

After the match Connell spoke with afcb.co.uk to discuss his side's showing: "Preparing for the game we did barely anything as most of the team were under-16s.

"Credit to the players, the beauty of having a philosophy as a club is that it looked like a Bournemouth team, they passed the ball well and were on the front foot trying to win the ball back.

"The players took on instructions and implemented them really well. They showed a lot of imagination in their play and looked a real threat in forward areas.

"What pleased me more than anything was how resolute we were, for such a young team to stand up all game to a lot of balls into the box and long throw ins was great to see.

"I said to the boys afterwards what a great game it was for their development and what a first team game might look like in their futures. It was a really rewarding day, to get a clean sheet and look such a threat in attack.

"Jake Adams was captain as one of the two seconds years and he produced a fine individual display. We've taken a few knocks as a team in recent months, playing so many under-16s and blooding them in earlier than we might have done with our injury situation.

"We saw the benefits of exposing them early to youth team football because they looked mature with the experience they've gathered.

"I said to the players before the game that we had seven Academy graduates involved in the FA Cup quarter-finals. Those players have done these games, the early mornings and the long trips - so there's your incentive.

"It's important now that we get on the training pitch next week and look to produce another performance against Portsmouth next Saturday."

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