James Collins is expecting another difficult task for his development side when they face League Two outfit Port Vale in the last 32 of the Papa John’s Trophy this evening.
The under-21s finished second in the group stages following Fabio Silva’s double against Doncaster Rovers, meaning the young Wolves side face a trip to Vale Park on Tuesday night.
Collins’ men benefited from the addition of senior experience in their previous match, but even if first-team players are not available for tonight’s match, the head coach is more than confident in his usual under-23 squad, who were able to put three goals without reply past Newcastle United last time out.
On available squad for the Papa John’s Trophy
“The last two rounds have come in the middle of an international break, so there’s been senior players who’ve not been away with national teams who needed to get some game time.
“It’s a little bit different when the matches come between two Premier League games, so the players we have available will be down to the manager and what he thinks is best for his players fitness-wise.
“But we’ve got a decent group as it is, and it’s good for the players who get to play most weeks to be tested in a competition like this, so either way it’ll be an interesting challenge.”
On the test posed by Port Vale
“The further you go in this competition, the more difficult it becomes, because league teams start to take it more seriously because it gives them a chance of getting to Wembley.
“In the early stages, teams tend to put a mixture of reserves and first-team players, but from this second round onwards, they tend to put their strongest team out, so if they do that, it will be a real tough test for us.
“They were having a bit of a bad run in the league, but I’ve seen them recently, and they’re a lively, energetic and decent team, who will finish higher than where they are at the moment, and, in my opinion, will be pushing for the play-offs.”
On coming off the back of a comfortable win at Newcastle
“I thought we controlled the game from start to finish. We approached the game with a high press, which is not something we’ve done for a while, showed great enthusiasm and we got a lot of success from that.
“Once we’d got the first goal, we could then really settle in the game and showed good control throughout, while scoring some excellent goals, and could’ve had one or two more.
“We’ve had one or two performances like that this season, but with us going on a long trip away from home, I thought the boys approached it well against an experienced Newcastle team, and we were good in both aspects, as an attacking unit and when we were defending.
“It was a well-balanced performance, but there was still a lot of work to do.”
On bouncing back after Middlesbrough defeat
“The players felt that they didn’t get what they deserved against Middlesbrough. When we looked back at the game, and analysed the stats, it was a very even game, but the big pivotal moments went Middlesbrough’s way and we ended up losing the game quite comfortably.
“But the players felt quite wounded by that as nobody wants to lose by three or four goals, so we knew that we needed to respond, and I felt they did that well.
“It’s always good to see how a player’s character is after we lose, and the fact that they responded really well and got a good win away from home was very good signs for us.”
On aims for the remaining games of 2020
“What I’ve said to the players, is that there a little run of three games, including two against teams who are slightly above us in the league, and the other against a league team, so it will be a really challenging three games and real test of where we’re at and where the players are at.
“A lot of our players will have ambitions to be around the first-team or will want to go out on loan, but to do that, you have to play well in the bigger games, and the next three coming up in our world are big games.
“We’ve asked the lads to focus on the next three games and, if we do our processes right, see where we come out of it going into the Christmas break.”