Academy coach Miguel Llera declared himself proud of the youth team, after they defeated Port Vale 2-1 in the FA Youth Cup second round at the Proact last night.
Goals from Marshall Willock and Luke Rawson gave the Spireites a 2-0 lead, before Vale pulled a goal back through Josh Ryder 11 minutes from time. But despite the visitors throwing men forward in the closing stages, it was Llera’s men who progressed and now face an away trip to Swansea City in round three.
Speaking exclusively to iFollow, Llera said: “I’m very proud of them, it was a really tough game and we defended really well.
“We scored the chances that we had and we managed the game really well and I think that we deserved to go through into the next round.
“I was expecting a response from them because to lose the other day (2-1 away at Grimsby Town) was really disappointing. Like every team if you show desire and commitment from minute one like we did today you can compete.
“I was disappointed on Saturday because we started pretty slow, without tempo and a lack of concentration at times and our challenge today was to start properly, because in a competition like this you have to.
“If you’re sloppy at the beginning then you will lose and go out, you can’t take that risk and you have to do your best from the start.”
Willock’s opening goal came in the 31st minute, when he rose highest from a Charlie Wakefield corner to head past Vale goalkeeper Dequan Crockwell, a goal that came when the Spireites were on top in what was a tight first half.
The centre half is currently on loan at non-league Kettering Town, but is able to play in the competition for the youth team and Llera is pleased to have him involved.
He said: “After the goal we settled down and started to play football, I told the players at half time that the game was about us because we knew that their strikers were approaching us and we were losing possession from when we played out from the back.
“When you see someone like score a goal like that you’re really pleased for him. He’s a strong guy, he’s been spending time on loan and is doing a great job there and a great one when he comes to play with us in the cup.
“I think that he really deserved that goal, because he attacked the ball strongly and with desire, we trained this morning on set pieces so I’m pleased.”
Striker Rawson added a second in the 73rd minute, sliding the ball under Crockwell to take his tally to 10 goals this season, all of which have come in his last 10 games!
“I’m delighted for the goals but it’s reward for the hard work that he’s putting in for the team. He’s a really hard working guy,” Llera said of his striker.
“For any manager to have a player like him on the pitch is a pleasure because he gives me everything that he has and if he’s able to score brilliant!”
Llera has urged his team to keep the hard work and good form going before they visit the Liberty Stadium in the next round – which will be played at some point before Saturday, December 16.
And despite coming up against a Premier League academy side, it’s a tie that holds no fear for the Spireites.
“The reward today was to play against Swansea in a Premier League stadium, it’s a reward for them for the hard work they have been doing for me,” Llera added.
“It’s not every day that you can play in a Premier League stadium, but I told them that I’m not going to Swansea for a holiday, I’m going to compete.
“They are a category one academy and a big team, but we won’t show fear, we’ll have to show commitment, desire, everybody is working in the right direction, the group is growing and being really strong and I think with that attitude we can beat anyone.”
Next up for the youth team is a home EFL Youth Alliance North East fixture with York City, at St George’s Park Sheffield Graves on Saturday (11am).
Llera will be hoping to have more players at his disposal for the game with the Minstermen after a virus swept through the camp prior to the game with the Valiants. But regardless of who plays, Llera has urged his team not to take York lightly.
“I want to finish as high up in the table as I can, every game is like a final.” He asserted. “We have another game on Saturday and we can’t make the mistake that because they’re bottom of the league it will be easy, because there aren’t any easy games in this league.
“We’ve had an issue today where a virus has come into the changing room and I have three or four men down – hopefully they’ll come back as quickly as possible. I’ll put the best team on to the pitch that I can, I believe in all of them.”