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Under-21s

Under-21s rise to challenge in curtain-raiser

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Coach Shaun Cooper expressed his delight after AFC Bournemouth under-21s had opened their pre-season games schedule with an impressive 2-0 win against the Rising Ballers Academy.

Matt Burgess (pictured) opened the scoring in the 17th minute and Euan Pollock marked his return from a five-month injury layoff by bagging a second before half-time as the Cherries triumphed at Canford Park Arena.

With several members of the under-21 squad away with the first team in Marbella, the starting line-up included a mix of players from across the club’s academy ranks, among them winger Baylin Johnson, who only turned 16 earlier this month.

The Rising Ballers Academy is one of the UK’s leading football college programmes which offers aspiring young players the chance to receive top coaching and education opportunities.

Cooper told afcb.co.uk: “I was pleased they got the win that I thought they deserved. It was a really good opening fixture for some of the lads who haven’t had a game yet so, fitness-wise, it was a good test.

“They are just getting used to playing with each other as a group and I thought they worked hard and some of the football was very good.

“Matt and Euan are both goalscorers. Matt is a real attacking threat from midfield because he is a great striker of the ball as he showed with his goal.

“Euan is a threat in behind, he always has been. He showed bravery to score the goal he scored and never gave up on it. He turned a long kick from Cameron Plain into an assist so Cam was very pleased with that!”

Discussing the make-up of the squad, Cooper added: “Continuity of messages across the age groups was evident today and I was really pleased with that.

“I thought the under-18s who started did well and the ones who came on for the last half-an-hour were outstanding. Their football was a real joy to watch at times and they created some fantastic opportunities against a much older and more physical team.

“It was shame they couldn’t get a goal for it but, across the board, it was really pleasing to see the level of in-house competition we’ve got.

“All these boys are trying to fight for the same spots in our first team and careers in the game and to have that internal competition is only a good thing.

“I spoke to the starters before the game and told them to get some fitness out of it and get everything they could physically. I asked them to get their good habits back in and to enjoy it.

“Those were the three things we wanted to get out of the game. We haven’t had too much time to work on too much tactically and structurally because a lot of the lads have been with the first team.

“I thought they delivered all three of those things and they told me they did enjoy it so that was a real positive!”

The under-21s continue their games programme with a visit to National League South outfit Havant & Waterlooville on Saturday 24th July.

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