The Academy under 18s played out a goalless draw with Stoke City in the Potteries at the weekend. And, according to coach Mick Halsall, as the scoreline suggests, it was a closely fought out encounter.
He said: “We have only had two games this season when I could say we were evenly matched with the opposition by way of resources and quality of players at our disposal.
“One was against West Bromwich Albion and the other was Stoke City in our last game. Both teams were evenly matched and it was just a matter of who could get on top and dominate.
“I thought we created more and had better chances than Stoke did but could not break them down due to some good defensive work on their behalf.
“With all that said and done, we could have lost the game near the end but for a very good save from our keeper Scott Dutton who helped us preserve a good point.
“It is important our players compete and play against opposition whose teams and players are varied in the way of quality. We have to remain realistic in our views about how players learn and improve and for me it is not always about playing in very difficult games when all the players do is chase after the opposition.
“They must be given opportunities to play in games when they are expected to win and show they can do so. They must also play in games when they are very evenly matched and see if they can come through those types of fixtures with good, solid feedback due to the work they have produced.
“This has been a very clear message for me this season especially after the last game when, after having time to reflect, I once again came to the conclusion the players have to be able to show what they can do in different types of learning environments.”