Academy Manager on Checkatrade Trophy win“These are great nights for our young players,” said Academy Manager Lee Herron, after the Royals progressed past Southampton in the Checkatrade Trophy - the tie was decided by penalty shoot-out. It was a young Reading side which saw 11 teenagers named in the matchday squad.
“We had some young guys out there impressing – 16, 17 and 18-year-old players.
“Some of the older players can help the younger players – that’s important too. In a team environment you need that – you need the arm around the shoulder, you need the poke. And the lads did all of that tonight, especially in the second half, so credit to them.
“There’s lot of work to do with the younger players as there always is – we want to keep developing the philosophy of play and we want to keep developing these young players.
“The experience tonight is great, and now we’ve got another opportunity to play in the tournament. That’s what we’re aiming for every time we come and play – let’s see if we can get another game.”
It wasn’t a formality though. The Saints led at the break through their more senior player Lloyd Isgrove, who found a neat finish, but Reading were dominant after the interval and levelled through Niall Keown.
The hosts had goalie Harry Lewis to thank for taking the game to spot-kicks – but it was Royals stopper Anssi Jaakkola who was the hero as he saved two en route to another shoot-out win.
“I think in the first half we didn’t possess enough tempo and desire to want to impress enough and take the game by the scruff of the neck,” Herron continued. “But we did that in the second half – and we had to. It was important that we did.
“In the second half the young players came out with a much better attitude towards the game and a better tempo and used the ball much better – and probably felt we should have won the game in the second half. It went to penalties, and we’re lucky enough to come away with a victory.
“Penalties are something that you don’t practice often, and of course you don’t get many chances to be involved in them. We’ve been involved in two now and we’ve won both, and I suppose that’s how it goes – you build some confidence levels in it and you feel that you can win them. That’s what it looked like when it went to penalties. I felt, ‘we could win this’.”
And lastly, our Academy Manager paid tribute to those supporters that made the journey to get behind our aspiring young players – he hopes to see a few more faces at Yeovil in the next round.
“Thank you to the guys that turned out tonight. This is our club, we all love our club and we all want the best for our club. So I’d say if you can get along to the next game at Yeovil, these young men would appreciate that.
“We’re all in this together as one and the fans are the life of the football club, and it would please me and the players fantastically if we could get a good following to come and cheer the young boys on and see what we can do.”