A ‘devastated’ Mark Kennedy was left disappointed with the final result as his under-23 side fell to a narrow defeat in an entertaining tie against Liverpool.
The caretaker head coach felt his players were outstanding in their 4-3 loss and praised the way the team kept their spirits up to fight back after finding themselves three goals down going into the final 20 minutes of the match, but ultimately ended up short of a miraculous recovery.
On narrow Liverpool defeat
“I’m absolutely devastated for the players because I thought they were excellent and some of the football was fantastic.
“I spoke after the Derby game about our defending, because I felt we defended outstandingly but we didn’t create anything. I said we’d have a day when we’d have the best of the play, shots on goal, dominate corners, free-kicks, look like a really good team and not win and, disappointingly, that was the next game.
“To come away to Liverpool and score three goals against their strongest under-23 team, with just Harvey Elliott missing, and lose is disappointing, but football is about both boxes and they were really clinical in the final third and we were defensively poor today.
“Ultimately, that’s how we learn, that’s how we get better, and we’ll go back and look at our mistakes and what we could’ve done collectively better as a team.”
On finding themselves three goals down
“There’s no way I’ll be critical about us in the final third because we worked the keeper, had good chances and I don’t think we were wasteful.
“I went in to see Neil [Critchley, Liverpool head coach] after the game and they weren’t happy. We’re disappointed but Liverpool were pretty angry.
“We identified Liverpool’s identity as forward runs – the front three running in behind to create chances of space for their midfielders. Yet we score in the 44th minute and in the 45th they get one ball over the top which we don’t deal with, it’s knocked down for the number 10 running in from midfield and they score.
“We’ve got a really young team, they’re all learning, but I thought the lads were outstanding. I’m gutted for them, but if that’s a sign of things to come then I think we’re going to be absolutely fine.”
On fighting back from 4-1
“At that stage, we could’ve easily thought this could be five or six, but not at any point did we think that of our group.
“We just hope that they remain balanced – never get too high, never get too low. We didn’t walk away from the Derby game thinking we’d cracked it.
“If the lads were to have been beaten 4-1, that would’ve been a really unfair reflection on the game. We’re really disappointed we lost 4-3, but we’re a really resilient group and they don’t give up. A lot of credit has to go to the work the group did collectively and Rob [Edwards] was a huge part of that.
“My criticism is that they need to believe in themselves more. We said to them at the beginning to forget about the names, forget about the badge you’re playing – you’re playing against a good team, but you’re a good team. They need to believe in themselves and trust in themselves.”