Dan Copnall says there were plenty of positives to take from the Under 18’s final game of the season, despite losing 2-1 away at Brighton & Hove Albion.
Copnall has spent the season as the assistant coach for the Under 18s and he was given the opportunity to lead the team for the final game of the season.
In a much changed team, a number of younger players were also given the opportunity to show what they can do in preparation for next season.
Copnall says it was a good chance to have a look at how the team could evolve next season.
“We took a younger side - we started the game with five Under 16s in the starting line-up against a really experienced Brighton team," Copnall began.
“We were really pleased with how the young players did, especially Owen Otasowie - he’s a central midfielder with bags of ability, he’s been working on what he does without the ball - we were really pleased with how he played both with and without the ball.
“It was good to have a look at the players for next season really and to have a look at how the team could evolve.
“They took the lead in the game early in the game, we felt that we probably could have dealt with the cross a bit better, we then failed to win the first header and Harry Beasley was unfortunate not to keep it out.
“They then sat in and we had lots of possession in the game, I was happy with how we switched the play - I felt that we could have been a bit more clinical when the ball went to wide areas and got more players in the box.
“They scored a second from a penalty - we tried going with two up front to try and cause them a few more problems and we scored a late goal through Tom Bexton to make it 2-1.
“Credit to Brighton - they nullified us, they stopped us from having shots - the lads gave their all and they worked as hard as the possibly could but unfortunately we couldn't break them down.
“It was a different type of game for the players and something that we’ll all have to learn from.
“Sometimes it’s good for us to come up against different ways of playing - we’ll definitely learn from it.
“We’ve been really good on the counter-attack in the last six or seven games whereas it was the other way round in this game as Brighton sat in and let us have the ball.
“It was a good experience for the lads and we can only better for it as staff and players.”
The final game of the season marks an astonishing turnaround - under the leadership of Darren Ryan and Dan Copnall, the Under 18s won five out of seven games, losing just one.
Copnall says that all of the credit has to go to the players and he also thanks Darren Ryan, he says Ryan has been great to work with.
He said, “I’ve spent the season in a supporting role, so it was nice to have an opportunity to take the team for the week and to lead them, prepare them and to lead the staff.
“I have to give big thanks to Darren Ryan for that - not only has he come in wanting to develop players but he wants to develop staff as well.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity and hopefully I can get more opportunities at the club further down the line.
“Darren (Ryan) came in at a good time at the start of the Merit League, it gave us a chance to start fresh.
“We got the players really well organised and the lads have been an absolute credit to work with - their efforts on and off the field has been outstanding.
“They've worked extremely hard, they’ve made themselves very difficult to beat, we’ve been good on the counter-attack, we've scored goals and we’ve kept clean sheets.
“It’s down to the players - they're the ones that set themselves a target of trying to get to 15 points.
“It’s been really good for me as a coach to work with some really good players and also work with really good staff such as Darren and Scott (Sellars) as well - it’s been really good for my development and I’ve definitely developed as a person and as a coach.”