Mick Halsall feared that his under 18s squad could face a hard time when they took on Fulham at the weekend, and the coach’s concern was proved to be justified.
The Cottagers took the honours rattling in five goals without reply although Mick felt that but for some poor defensive work and two disallowed goals, the end result could have been a lot closer.
He explained: “As we went in to the game we knew it was going to be a big test for us as Fulham have been one of the top teams in the past three seasons. We started confidently enough although we did not control the ball as well as we could have at times.
“Up until around the thirty minutes mark I always felt we were in the game as much as I would have expected but then a lack of concentration in defence saw us conceding a sloppy goal.
“It is when our players do this that I have to assess them against the quality they are facing and that is when you realise, as a coach, that you can only help the players so much.
“It was a goal that we should not have conceded and it put us on the back foot. However, the players responded well and we thought we had equalised only for the ‘goal’ to be ruled off-side.
“We looked at the video and the linesman missed their player on the far side of the pitch who was playing our lad on. We then conceded another goal, just before half time, which again the team in general could have prevented. They did not close down or challenge well enough to stop the opposition.
“It was a matter of being positive at half time with the players suggesting if we could get a goal back we could get back into the game. We thought we had done that as their keeper fumbled a cross under a little pressure from one of our players but the referee deemed it to be a challenge that hindered him.
“After the video evidence once again we could see the challenge did not affect the keeper - it was a weak catch which should have been a goal for us. The knockback left us with challenge we could not meet as Fulham went on to score another three goals.
“All of them were down to more poor defending by certain individuals who need to improve their play considerably.
“I will not make excuses and hide behind decisions going against us in the game. It happens and although I’m not suggesting if either or both of the two disallowed efforts had been allowed to stand, then it would have made any difference to the final outcome.
“But it is hard enough when we are up against top opposition and these little bits of fortune going against you do count for a lot.
“What disappoints me more than anything is the fact the team conceded five goals which they should not be doing and it was down to sloppy work by certain players.
“They have to be stronger than this and with the up and coming games also looking to be very demanding it is a big test of character for our players to stand up and show what they are capable of against top sides.”