Under-23 head coach James Collins was pleased with intensity and defensive stability his team showed as they took three points from Crystal Palace in their latest Premier League 2 clash to move up to third in the Division 2 table.
Although Theo Corbeanu and Owen Hesketh helped put the side ahead at Aggborough, Collins’ side missed several chances for their dominance to reflect on the scoreline and had to rely on a positive second-half display from his defence to see out the game, but the coach praised his players in coping with their first match in three weeks, ahead of a quick turnaround before their next fixture on Friday.
On picking up the win against Palace
“I’m delighted to obviously win the game. I thought we started really well, which we set out all week to do. We felt at Stoke, we’d started well but weren’t able to sustain it and we were a bit passive as the game went on, so the key today was to come out of the traps flying, and we did.
“It gives you a great advantage to get a two-goal start, and I thought a lot of our football in the first-half was excellent. But we looked really tired and faded in the second-half.
“We had to change our way slightly and defend, defend well, defend our box, and I thought we did it very well.”
On spurning several chances to extend lead further
“Especially late in the first-half, I thought we should’ve had another couple. Theo [Corbeanu] can be a bit like that and take too much on himself in those situations, which a lot of strikers do, of course.
“But I thought he could’ve squared it for a simple tap in for Owen [Hesketh] or Austin [Samuels], and that would’ve been three and put the game to bed at that point.
“You never know at 2-0 because the score is always open. We had one or two chances in the second-half, and I thought it was a penalty, with a foul on Nigel [Lonwijk] because the defender had his arms all over him.
“But when you’re two-up, sometimes you don’t get those decisions because naturally that would be the game fizzling out at that point. I thought we were good though.
On his side’s defensive stability
“One of the big things is always about keeping the clean sheet. One thing we take pride in is that we try and mirror our first-team and try to look like our first-team as much as we possibly can. That’s because if they do every get the chance to go into Nuno’s group, they know what they’re doing.
“One of the big things about our first-team when we’re at our best is we’re defensively outstanding and clean sheets are important and clearing the ball out of the box is as important as a finish up the other end.
“I thought we showed that today and Nigel and Lewis [Richards] in the middle of back four were excellent today, and with Jack Scott, it was his first start in months and he almost lasted the whole 90 minutes, which was terrific, and Hugo on the other side is steady every single week, so I thought the back four did very well.”
On positive play from his midfield
“I’m really pleased for Hong [Wan] because he’s had to be patient and he’s had to wait, but he’s taken his opportunities well this year. He knows what he is, he knows what his strengths are, and he plays to his strengths very well, and I thought he played really well today. He made the odd mistake, like they all do, but I thought he was good.
“[Luke] Cundle has been excellent all season and Owen is a real plus to have in the group and have in the team, because he keeps the game ticking with the way he passes the ball, he’s always the one wanting the ball from a teammate.
“I think Owen has turned into TP [Taylor Perry] while he’s been out injured. I thought TP was going to go out on loan, and I was wondering who we could replace him with, especially his goals, and Owen has come in and scores every week, it seems now. So that would be nice when we get TP back in the group as well, to give us even more goals from midfield.”
On facing Fulham on Friday
“I hate to sound like I’m moaning because we’re working, enjoying it and playing games of football, so we’re living the dream a little bit, but the lack of games has been difficult.
“We had a game called off at Villa last week and the game just after Christmas against Leeds wasn’t able to be played, so we’ve been doing a lot of training without playing games, and the boys want to play games.
“It’s nice to have a week now where we’ve got two games in a week, which is what footballers should have, but what we will have to do is look after them physically, because the games will take its toll.”