Assistant Academy boss on narrow lossAssistant Academy Manager David Dodds was pleased with the level of performance put in by the U18s against Sunderland at Madejski Stadium on Saturday, though frustrated with the end result.
After conceding an early goal, the U18s dominated for long spells, creating a few decent opportunities but they were unable to find an equaliser.
The 1-0 reverse saw the Black Cats leapfrog the Royals to finish top of end-of-season Play-off Group 2 and Dodds believes that the experience will act as a good learning curve for the youngsters.
“With Sunderland getting a goal after a minute or so it allowed them to drop back and defend,” he said. “It was particularly difficult break them down because they defended very resolutely.
“In the first half we played really well; we got down the sides, overloaded them and round the back of them. We probably didn’t get as many people into the box and we would have wanted but we had chances.
“Jake Sheppard had a one on one and we had a couple when Sam Smith got free. In the second half our rhythm was upset a little bit. We had to take off Tennai Watston and Gabriel Osho as they had only just recovered from long-term injuries and we weren’t as effective as we had been after that.
“The good thing, though, is that those two boys got an hour under their belts and they were looking very strong. At the end, we went a bit more direct and played off the front runners. Danny Williams came close with a volley and then their goalkeeper made a great save from his right-foot shot.
“It was one of those games where if we’d scored, then we’d probably have won it by three or four but because they score early it made them very difficult to break down. It was a good experience for our lads and we’ve had the post-match analysis - there are lots of different learning points from within the game.”
The U18s came into the fixture with back-to-back wins to their name, having won away at Liverpool and West Ham United. And Dodds says that the team were frustrated that they were unable to make it three on Saturday.
He said: “We set ourselves up to win the play-off group and it was a little bit disappointing to come away having performed decently but without creating enough from the possession that we had.
“You want to really encourage and teach your young footballers that winning is really important because when they get to first-team level then that is all that counts.
“As they go through the U18s and more so the U21s it becomes a lot more important and you want to plant the seed as to how important it is. Maybe it would have been better on Saturday had we played poorly but won the game?
“We always try to win with a performance level in mind but sometimes you just have to go out and win a game. That’s the transition we have to make; from performance players to winning players.”