Davis set to challenge young players in West Brom cup clash

Steve Davis is prepared to dip into the younger age groups at Wolves Academy as his side face an U17 Premier League Cup opener against West Bromwich Albion this evening.

Having guided his under-18s to a 5-0 victory over Wolves’ Black Country derby rivals in the cup last weekend, Davis will be hoping to replicate that result at Compton Park on Tuesday night in the under-17 edition of the competition. But having seen his squad decimated by injuries before Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Everton in U18 Premier League North, the head coach will be offering a challenge to the club’s talented under-16 and under-15 players to make that step up against the Baggies.

On an under-17 Black Country derby in the cup

“We are very light on numbers at the moment, so it’ll be a case of the ones who are fit and available from the under-18s who are under 17 will play.

“We’ve got Temple [Ojinnaka] coming back from injury, so he will get a few controlled minutes. It will be great to have him back as it’s his first real involvement this season. It’ll be a lower intensity game being under-17s, which will obviously help him and then we’ll have some of the under-16s and under-15s who we feel are ready for a challenge.

“We will be quite a young team, but we’re hoping the first-year scholars who are regulars in the under-18s will hold that group together.

“We’ve not been able to do much planning for tonight in terms of getting the group together, but the lads know how each other play, and hopefully the older lads can be leaders on the day and help the younger ones who are coming into the group.

“But it’s another opportunity to get through against our local neighbours once again, so I’m looking forwards to it and I’m sure the lads are too.”

On the under-18’s 5-0 cup win last week

“I was delighted with the performance. We always gage the week by how we play and I thought it was an excellent performance. We dominated most of the game and they couldn’t find a way into the game, which is credit to the lads really because they were dominant in their possession.

“We went 3-0 up very quickly, hit them very hard early on and was quite aggressive, as you should be in a derby.

“We approach the game with a really positive attitude and thought we played really well and scored some excellent goals. I was really pleased with that result and performance.”

On Saturday’s loss against Everton

“Although the result didn’t go our way, I thought we played well. There were lots of positives and really good things that came out of the game.

“In possession, I thought we played some excellent football, built up well, we didn’t lack any confidence, but it was a slightly different team to what we had against West Brom, with slightly younger ones in there, a few unavailable, so we borrowed a couple of lads from the under-16s as they were playing on the pitch next to us.

“It was great experience for Leo Shahar and Fabian Reynolds to come off the bench, and we were also going to have Oliver Sweeney, but he got injured playing for the 16s, so it was a difficult start with just Jimmy [Storer] as a regular under-18 on our bench.

“Everton went strong, so it was always going to be a tough match, and we managed to get back into the game having been a goal down, and both teams had chances, it was a good open game, very competitive, but I was very pleased with the performances on the day and we did some really good things on the ball.

“Tyler [Roberts] scored a really good goal. We switched play twice, went wide, Josh [Esen] got down the side, cut it back, outside the box, Ethan [McLeod] got it out of his feet and onto his right foot whipped a great cross in and Tyler got in between the centre-back and the full-back to head it in. An excellent goal.”

On learning from mistakes

“The only thing I was disappointed with on Saturday was how passive we were for their first goal. We had a six-v-five situation defensively and we put in five or six tackles that weren’t really tackles – we were just too nice.

“That’s been unlike us from the last couple of games, because one of the things we have been in very aggressive and got good results, but for some reason we weren’t as aggressive out of possession against Everton, and for that particular goal, we paid the price. We stood off them too much and allowed them an easy route to the goal.

“But we ended up with four full-backs in our defence because Kam [Kandola] went off injured in the first-half and we had no other centre-halves available.

“Considering we had four full-backs playing across the back four, I thought they did excellently well. It was another good experience for them to play in another position, learning something new and something different.”

On Esen’s performances since signing

“I’ve been really impressed with Josh. He’s done really well since coming in, as a non-academy player having been released by Swansea when he was a young kid, and has managed to get himself playing in men’s football and this is another opportunity and another route for him into the professional game.

“We’ve been conscious about how much he plays at the moment and how much he trains because we’re not sure where he is from a fitness perspective and how much load he can handle.

“But he got a goal and as assist against West Brom, he played the full game against Everton, seemed to get through it well, he worked hard and showed good maturity in certain situations. He also played a variety of positions at the front, which shows his versatility.

“It’s still very early in his development, but he’s a fast learner and I think there’s only more to come from him. I was very pleased with his performance on Saturday, especially considering it was a tough game for him.”