Under-18's 1 month ago

Clark On FA Youth Cup: “This Is The Biggest Game”

Simon Clark’s Under-18s travel to Fleetwood Town tonight in the FA Youth Cup, hoping to kick off a similar run to last season’s which saw them reach a glamorous semi-final at Anfield.

Confidence is high among the Under-18s, who sit second in the league with nine wins from 13, and a number of regular starters were rested on Saturday in preparation for the Fleetwood match.

“We had a really good run last year, that was before my time but I know speaking to those in my squad who were involved last year that it’s a fantastic experience for them,” said Lead Coach Simon Clark. “We’ve rested the majority of the squad and they only played minutes if they needed minutes.”

Although Clark did not experience last year’s run first-hand, he is well aware of the effect it had on the young players.

“Before I came in, I watched the games of last year’s FA Youth Cup run,” he said. “Tom Hart [Professional Development Phase Coach] was involved in it heavily and he knows what it can do for the whole Academy and the football club.

“We need to be at our best because Fleetwood have had a fantastic start and they’ve got two lads who have played in their first team.”

The Under-18s players have experienced pressure games already this season, coming out on top in a first-versus-second clash in the league against Millwall. But Clark said they are all well aware this is undoubtedly the biggest of the season so far.

“I spoke to the lads after training and asked them how they rate this game in their season and they’ve all said this is the biggest game," he said. “They naturally make it a big game and they now have to understand what it takes to perform, but I have no doubt that they will because of the experience and the work ethic they have, and because the experience of last year will put them in great stead.

“When you look at Sonny Blu Lo-Everton and Ryan Maclean, the experience they got last year will hold them in great stead and hopefully we can put together a run again this year.”

Another who impressed in last year’s run – most notably with outstanding performances at Leicester City and Liverpool in the latter stages – is goalkeeper Dante Baptiste.

“I talk to [Goalkeeper Coach] Graham Stack most days and he said at Leicester and Liverpool he was just ridiculous, he could have won games on his own,” said Clark. “Hopefully this year in the earlier stages we can dominate games and have him do less.”

Tonight’s third round tie will go to extra-time and penalties if it is level after full-time. Clark hopes victory will be sealed within 90 minutes, but has good reason to back his ‘keeper if a shoot-out is required.

“Dante has just come from a loan spell at Hendon, which has done him good and he’s just won a penalty shoot-out there,” he said. “If it goes to penalties at Fleetwood, we certainly know we’ve got a goalkeeper who saves penalties.”

Under-18's 1 month ago

Under-18: Coventry City 1-2 Watford

A young Under-18s side dug in and took their chances to pick up a 2-1 away win at Coventry City and keep them second in the Under-18 Professional Development League on Saturday.

Five Under-16s started and nine were on the pitch during the second half, as multiple regular starters were rested ahead of an important FA Youth Cup tie at Fleetwood Town on Tuesday night.

The young Hornets stepped up though, with Tom Horsewood scoring a goal in each half to earn an away win.

The opening goal came in the 10th minute when Watford attacked down the left flank, with a cross finding Horsewood in the six-yard box and the forward making no mistake.

Simon Clark’s side led at the break but had to substitute more regular Under-18s ahead of the midweek match, meaning the second-half team was even less experienced.

Shortly after the hour mark the hosts were level, when a penalty was awarded against Ryan Andrews for handball despite the ball hitting him from very close range.

However, the young Watford side battled back and went down the other end to score in the 85th minute.

A great ball from Ben Smith found Freddie Moriarty, who flicked the ball to Enoch Muwonge for the forward to play in Horsewood for his second.

Clark’s team shut the game out to earn a ninth league victory of the season.

“It’s a fantastic victory for the football club and the Academy, because our Under-16s have come in and worked really hard,” said Clark.

“You can generally cater for one or two Under-16s in the team, but when you’re playing half a game with nine, you generally get a lot of turnovers and you’re less cohesive. Their work rate was fantastic.”

The Lead Coach said his side had a tough task competing with the older opposition, but praised their application and said the experience would only help their development.

“Obviously they’re physically a bit short against the opposition so it’s really tough in the duels, because some of those boys are playing against people who are three years older than them, and that’s huge at that age,” said Clark.

“But we played some good periods of decent football and it’s really good for them to understand the demand that we put on them and the levels of performance that we want.”

HORNETS: Marriot (GK); Andrews, Evans, Sankoh, Trialist, Janjeva, Smith, Thompson, Horsewood, Muwonge, Manning.

Subs: Hill, Hudd, Hunter, Forde.

Images: Franziska Empl