U18s continue hunt for first league win
AFC Bournemouth under-18s’ winless start to Merit League One continued with a 2-1 defeat away to Oxford United under-18s on Tuesday.
Two early goals from the Yellows put the home side in front, but a well-struck Luke Gray volley offered the Cherries a sight back into the game, Gray connecting handsomely from James Oliver’s free-kick.
Despite an improved performance from Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Exeter, Bournemouth could not find the equaliser.
Speaking to afcb.co.uk after the game, AFC Bournemouth under-18s manager Alan Connell discussed the following topics…
“We played well, I was pleased. We conceded two early goals, which was disappointing, as we did the same against Exeter on the weekend. We spoke about not giving away soft goals, being difficult to beat and not giving ourselves a mountain to climb, but unfortunately that happened again.
“What pleased me was that we kept our heads and passed the ball quite well on a difficult pitch in torrential rain. Credit to the players for sticking to our principles. We controlled large periods of the game, especially once we got the score back to 2-1, but we just couldn’t find that breakthrough to get the equaliser. I was pleased with what I saw on and off the ball.
“We tweaked the formation slightly, but it wasn’t ideal preparation because we literally had 11 players, two of whom were Under-16s who we had to get out of school. We had players playing out of position but it didn’t seem to matter. The boys did what they normally do which is work hard and pass the ball.
“My criticism at Exeter on Saturday was that we were fine box-to-box but lacked a ruthless edge within both boxes. While we did concede two early soft goals against Oxford, generally we defended quite well and looked more likely to score than we did against Exeter.
“It was definitely a step forward and a positive day, but the players and myself don’t like losing football matches, so it’s another defeat that we have to take on the chin. There’s plenty of work still to do on the training field.
“Nathan Moriah-Welsh, who has played a lot this season, captained the team in the last couple of games, and I thought he performed well in midfield. Jack Torniainen played out of position at centre-half and acquitted himself really well in that position.
“I’m pleased for Luke Gray to score and to carry on the recent good work he’s been doing. Matt Burgess, one of our Under-16s, played his first Under-18s game, and it was a good eye-opener for him to see what this level is all about.”
Making the step up
“The under-18s who played for the under-21s performed quite well in their game against Sholing on Monday. That gives others in the youth team opportunities to step up. Some are definitely doing that while others need to do a bit more. Part of their development is to play 90 minutes, game to game, Saturdays and Tuesdays, so that’s good.
“We’ve got to get the balance right where we’re hard to beat, but at the same time we do all the things that we encourage every single day. We’re pretty much a team made up of first-years. That’s the progression we want in the academy.
“Players from the under-21s all the way down are getting stretched higher up, so we feel we’re doing the best for the players and giving them the best all-round experience to be the best they can be.
“Sholing are top of their league so that was always going to be a difficult game, but I know Shaun Cooper was pleased with the boys. Sholing are a men’s team so obviously they offered different problems than a typical academy game.
“There are positive signs and the second-years are training with the under-21s most days now. It’s that time of year where we’re looking to kick players on and see if they can make that step up. The early signs are encouraging.”
“We play Luton Town under-18s at home on Saturday, so I’ll check out their results, watch their videos, and find out more about them later in the week as we prepare for that game. Some of our under-18s could well play for the under-21s on Friday against Nottingham Forest, so we’ll have to adapt accordingly with regard to our team and our preparation.”
The AFC Bournemouth under-18s side are sponsored by Strategic Solutions.