Collins | On mixed emotions, U23 debutants and facing Forest

James Collins is expecting to go with another young line-up for Friday night’s match with Premier League 2 newcomers Nottingham Forest having given full under-23 debuts to three players last time out.

The head coach admitted he was left both pleased and disappointed following Monday evening’s defeat against Reading at the Select Car Leasing Stadium, as first-team duties, several injuries and outgoing loans has left his squad low on numbers.

But after handing starts to Dexter Lembikisa, Harry Birtwistle and Erik Bugarin, albeit out of position due to his lack of midfield options, Collins was happy with the displays of the young members of his squad.

On mixed emotions at Reading

“I was pleased and disappointed in equal measure. I was delighted with how they got into their shape, I thought that was really good. The boys got hold of doing their roles well and tactically understood their roles well and had a real good go at implementing them.

“The disappointment was the three goals we conceded. Not matter how young we were, they were all goals that were avoidable. Reading didn’t open us up with great football, but they were all down to individual mistakes and switching off, which is something they’ve got to learn to get better at.

“It wasn’t a perfect footballing performance, but they worked hard and probably did enough to deserve something out of the game, but you don’t get anything out of the game if you give three soft goals away.

“It was a mixture of being pleased with the effort they put in, the work rate and how they picked up the tactically information, but disappointed with the individual mistakes.”

On first under-23 starts

“It was a real tough ask for Dexter and Harry to come straight in and play in position’s they’re not used to. Dexter has been a full-back for a lot of his time with us and played in centre midfield and Harry has played wing-back and played on the right of midfield on Monday night.

“But all three of them really acquitted themselves really well. They’ve got plenty to work on, plenty to build on, but I thought for their first game at under-23 level, they showed good temperament and applied themselves to the game really well.”

On player availability

“I’ve had conversations with the first-team staff this week and they’ve got to wait and see who they have available for Sunday, so we may get one or two of the lads back for our game, but they may have to stay with the first-team.

“We’ve also lost a couple of players out on loan, so we’ll probably be similar to how we were at Reading and there will be an opportunity for the young players to gain more experience.

“But our job is then to help them, improve them and support them through which is a tough period at the moment with injuries, players going on loan and players with the first-team, so we are as low on numbers as we’re probably going to be all season.”

On the signing of Joe Hodge

"I’ve not worked with him since he’s come in, but ironically enough, when he was a young boy, an eight or nine-year-old, he came to Crewe when I was there and I tried to sign him.

"He was with us for a while, but in the end he chose the bright lights of Manchester City. But he’s a really good kid and a really good footballer.

"He’s exactly the sort of player we need in this group at the moment. We’re short of midfield players due to Jack [Hodnett] and Owen's [Hesketh] injuries, and he’s one who has great potential and will help the group."

On adding to the squad

“That’s something Scott and the recruitment team are dealing with at the moment. They’re aware we need a few more bodies in the group.

“We’re self-sufficient as an Academy, which is why we prioritise bringing players through from the lower age groups, rather than signing players from other clubs like we’ve done in the past.

“But with Owen [Otasowie] being sold and getting money in as part of the Academy funds, that possibly gives us an opportunity of getting one or even two more in at some point.

“But they’ve got to be the right fit. We’re not just going to bring players in for the sake of adding to the numbers.”

On a facing Forest for the first time

“They’re new to Premier League 2 this season as they’re now a category one academy, so they’re a team who have recruited knowing they’re coming into this ‘cat one’ environment.

“They’ve got a lot of players in their squad, a mixture of youth and experience. I know Harry Arter played for them in midfield against Southampton on Monday, so they’ve got a good mixture of the two.

“What they are is energetic, high tempo and very enthusiastic. We’re going to have to be on top of our game to get anything out of it.”