Youth team manager Miguel Llera was delighted with his team’s performance after their 3-2 victory over Oldham Athletic in the EFL Youth Alliance Cup on Saturday.
Sadly, despite finishing unbeaten in their group results elsewhere in the competition prevented the Spireites from progressing into the next round of the tournament, but the result was the second consecutive victory for the Spireites and was extra special given that the team were delayed in getting to Oldham because of a road traffic accident – meaning that the kick off time had to be put back by 15 minutes to 12.15pm.
“We’re getting reward for the hard work that we’ve been doing,” Llera said. “I’m glad to see them after the win the other day and being happy in the changing rooms.
“When we got there, we didn’t have too much time to think, we went to the pitch, warmed up for five-10 minutes and then we’re in the game. The team did really well, they switched onto the game from minute one and were 100% focused, I think we got the reward for that.”
Conor Fowler opened the scoring in the 19th minute, after the Spireites took advantage of an indirect free kick following a pass back by an Oldham defender.
The Latics levelled two minutes later before striker Luke Rawson put the Spireites back into the lead in the 23rd minute. Dylan Hand made it 3-1 15 minutes from time before Oldham pulled another goal back in the 80th minute.
The quality of the goals scored by the Spireites has impressed the Spaniard during his short time with the club, but now the focus is very much on keeping clean sheets!
He said: “I think we are getting really good quality goals, we have to create really good chances and use our quality to score our goals, but my concern at the minute is we’re conceding to many goals for the chances the opposition are having.
“We were defending well the other day but then we concede two goals. The first one was a free-kick on the edge of the box and the second was from a cross, apart from that they didn’t have another shot on target in the 90 minutes and we are conceding two goals from three shots on target and the punishment is too big.
“It’s always two or three shots on target that is costing us two goals, sometimes it’s an accident it shouldn’t happen long term, I’ll be worried when the opposition is creating seven chances. But I’m really pleased the way the team is playing at the moment.”
Another pleasing aspect of the performance was Rawson’s goal which continued his purple patch of seven goals in his last five appearances.
“Luke’s getting the reward for the really hard job that he is doing,” Llera commented. “He’s doing amazing job without the ball, pressing the centre backs, I think the great job that he is doing for the team is magnificent.
First-year professional Charlie Wakefield has also played a big part in the youth team’s recent success and Llera believes that his experience of being involved with the first team in recent months can be passed on to the scholars.
He said: “When he came I was a little bit worried about him, dropping back to play with the scholars could be difficult for him, but I’m very happy with the job he’s doing.
“I spoke with him and he understands everything, his aggression is much better, I gave him responsibility by making him captain, at the moment he’s an example for everyone else by the way he is playing on the pitch.”
The competition has been a useful one for the academy and has seen U16 players Connor Emery and Josh Turner make their debuts for the youth team – another indication of the strength in depth of the academy.
“The goal for us is to bring young players into the group,” Llera added. “I’m really pleased for Connor and Josh who came in the other day, they did really well. They came into a tough moment of the game when we were winning 3-2.
“Josh gave me just what I was asking, I wanted pace and runs in behind, he gave me that. Connor played centre midfield, I was demanding tackles, he’s a physical player and he did really well.
“Hopefully in the next few games they will get more and more minutes.”
The youth team are next in action on Saturday, when they travel to Burton Albion for an EFL Youth Alliance League fixture (11am).