Academy coach Miguel Llera says that his team more than deserved their place in the Derbyshire FA Senior Challenge Cup final.
Captain Charlie Wakefield secured the Spireites’ passage into the final, with a well taken goal in last night’s 1-0 win over Buxton at Silverlands. A match that saw the Spireites show their battling qualities, after striker Levi Amantchi was sent off in the second half.
Speaking to exclusively to iFollow a jubilant Llera said: “I’m delighted for the lads because they deserve to be in to the final, I think that the standard shown by all of them was really high.
“The pitch wasn’t in the best condition and they worked really, really hard – every single one of them.
“We had better chances than them and it’s only fair that we are in the final.”
The dismissal of striker Amantchi could have made for a nervy close to the game, but the young Spireites showed superb resilience to thwart the hosts, while continuing to look dangerous on the counter attack. And despite Amantchi’s disappointment, the Spaniard is backing his man to learn from the experience.
“The other player gave him an elbow and he reacted,” Llera said of the sending off. “It’s part of the development process as a player. It was a natural reaction, but he can’t react like that, he’s a young player but he’ll learn from it.
“After the sending off the it was a good test for the players, to play over 20 minutes with ten men and not concede too many chances shows just how hard this team is working, they were well organised and I think we deserve to be in the final.”
Wakefield’s goal came six minutes after the restart, when goalkeeper Jan Budtz’s clearance fell to him inside the Buxton half.
The midfielder then showed great composure and technique to lift the ball into the empty net and Llera hailed the contribution of his captain.
“Charlie was outstanding today,” he said. “On a tough pitch he worked really hard and managed the game, showing great leadership of the team, he got his reward with a goal that was different class.
“I think he deserved that, he’s been working with us in training, he’s took on board what we’re expecting from him and what Jack Lester is expecting of him. He’s doing really well and now we have to keep going with him and keep his consistent performance.”
A feature of the team’s performance was the high intensity levels that were shown from the first whistle. The Spireites’ forward players caused the Buxton defence numerous problems throughout the game, and were unfortunate not to win the game more convincingly.
“From Christmas to now, we have been working hard and now I can say that physically they are fit, they showed against a team of adults what they’ve been doing,” Llera said.
“We started really strongly and the team is fully concentrated on what they have to do to win games, the confidence is high and now my job is to keep that level as much as I can.
“We can’t drop the level, this is the standard, every victory we get makes us stronger and I’m not going to let them take their foot off the gas.”
Meanwhile, Llera heaped praise on the work done behind the scenes at the academy, by the likes of academy manager Mark Smith and head of coaching Matt Whitehouse.
All bar one of the players on show last night had come through the academy, with several having gone on to earn professional contracts. And Llera says that the place in the final is a reward for the superb work put in by all the staff connected with the academy.
“Without the jobs that all of the coaches are doing we wouldn’t have as strong a team as we have,” he added. “Every week they’re doing better and better and getting good results, bringing good players through.
“I think that the group I’m managing is the result of all the work that Mark and Matt have been doing at the academy. I’m really proud to be the leader of the group and I’m proud of the work that we are all doing.”