Academy manager, Mark Smith, says that the Spireites Youth Team can expect a stern test when they take on Stoke City U18s at Lilleshall this morning, 11.30.
The fixture with the Potters, is the Youth Team’s second pre-season game following Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Sheffield United development and Smith believes it will be a beneficial outing in more ways than one.
He said: “It’ll be a tough game, but it’s another opportunity to the lads to step-up their fitness, hopefully we’ll have a clean bill of health.
“We’re up against a category one team, who got to the semi-final of last season’s FA Youth Cup, so it’ll be tough, but it will give us the chance to work on a few things defensively as we’re expecting to have a lot of time without the ball, it’s important we start to gel as a defensive unit.”
First-year scholar, Robbie Foster, equalised for the Spireites with a clever finish in Tuesday’s clash at Hillsborough College, a match that saw many of the club’s first-year scholars play their debut match at Youth Team level.
“It was the first game that they’ve had together and it’s off the back of a week’s training,” he commented.
“We trained on the morning of the game as it’s part of pre-season, the players were a bit leggy in the game, but it’s the first game back and it should have got rid of the cobwebs.
“We still have things to work on, so it’s a case of getting them integrated into the group and getting across your messages, they’ll benefit from having at least 45 minutes game time and now we’ll build from there.”
It’s been a busy week for the academy staff, following last week’s departure of Dylan Kerr to Kenyan side Gor Mahia.
With a replacement is now being sort and Smith has praised the players’ response to losing a coach so early in the campaign
“The lads have responded well,” said Smith. “It’s been a bit rushed in terms of Dylan going so we’ve been filling gaps.
“We’ve put the job advertisement out now, so it’ll probably be another two-four weeks before we’re able to appoint somebody.”
Meanwhile, Smith has praised first team manager, Gary Caldwell, for giving academy scholars game time during their three pre-season friendlies last week.
The likes of Ify Ofoegbu, Dylan Hand, Conor Fowler and Jack Holmes were all involved and their appearances will only enhance their development.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Smith added.
“In pre-season, you do tend to see a lot of young players being involved what with players being rested or injured.
“It gives us a lift to have a manager who is not afraid to put the kids in, it’s really positive for us to have somebody who'll give youth a chance if they're good enough.”