DESPITE seeing his Reserve side go down 2-1 in a closely fought game against Southampton, coach Kevin Keen admitted that he had been proud of the performance put in by one of the youngest sides fielded during his reign as Reserve team boss.
The side included two 16-year-old first year Academy scholars in attack, both making their Reserve team debuts, and a further four second year scholars. Clive Clarke and Chris Cohen were the only players in the team with experience at senior level.
When you take into account those factors Kevin could be rightly proud of the determined display put up by his young side against a far more experienced Southampton team.
"It was a wonderful effort from the team," said Kevin afterwards, "particularly from the two boys up front. I had the two in the Under-16s last year so I know that they are decent players, but to come out and do it on their Reserve team debuts against players with first-team experience is a credit to both of them.
"I thought the team did very well, but we have to keep our feet on the ground and say that we can still get better.
"The only disappointing part of the game for me was when they scored their two goals. We could have done better clearing the ball on the first one and on the second we gave the ball away and they scored.
"It was tough on us, because within a minute we found ourselves 2-1 down after making such a great start. David Cowley did really well to find Tony Stokes and he's got that ability as an attacking midfielder to score goals."
Stokes put in an excellent performance in midfield, but having also played up front for the Reserves this season, Kevin is still open to the Academy graduates best position.
"He is one of those players that has matured a little bit slower than the others," he explained, "but over the last six months when we have moved him back into the centre of midfield he has shown a great desire to learn and hopefully that will continue this season.
"It was another young pairing in midfield with Ryan Andrews playing a slightly unfamiliar position. We could have played a more specialist centre midfielder, but with the two young players up front I felt we needed a bit more strength and stability in there and Ryan gave us that.
"It was a difficult game because they had experienced players running everywhere and it was tough for us to deal with. Our experienced players certainly did well and the likes of Clive Clarke, Jemel Henry and Chris Cohen helped us through along with Liam White in defence who also did well."
The presence of Cohen returning to the Reserve side for his second game of the season is certainly a big boost to Kevin's team.
"I think Chris is great," he exclaimed, "and it's fantastic to have him in the side."
Keen's Pride At Young Team's Performance
7th September 2005