Forest Green Rovers Under 18s brought all three points back to Gloucestershire as they emerged 4-3 winners at Yeovil Town on Saturday.
Goals from Ollie Artwell, Dan Jones, Isaiah Jones and Vaughn Covil put Rovers in the driving seat and saw them hold out for the three points, despite a late Glovers fightback.
The away side raced into the lead in South Somerset, Artwell pick pocketing the Yeovil full-back before driving inside and firing a wickedly curling shot over the keeper from outside the area after just four minutes.
A mere two minutes later, FGR found themselves two goals to the good as Dan Jones latched onto a high Dan Bradshaw through-ball before composing himself and sweeping the ball home on the half volley.
Bradshaw notched his second assist of the game with 10 minutes of the half to play as his corner from the left was well met by the powerful Issy Jones, whose near-post header was all too much for the man between the sticks.
Yeovil pulled one back two minutes before the break but is wasn’t long before Rovers increased the deficit once more.
Playing in a typical number nine role, Destiny Oladipo was on hand to slide a clever ball through to Covil on the right and the youngster had no problem applying a cool finish into the far corner.
Goals in the 85th and 92nd minute brought the hosts within one, but the young Rovers side held on to take all three points.
Having gone into the encounter a little under prepared, Head of Academy Hannah Dingley was delighted with the fast start that put her side firmly in control.
“The lads have done really well, to be honest we’ve not really had the best preparation for the game this week,” she said.
“We had the opportunity to train with the first team on Friday, but it meant the preparation wasn’t as focused on our game, although we all agreed it was the best thing for the lads in the long run.
“We went into the game a little bit blind, but just told the boys to go and play the way they did last week, and they were fantastic, scoring two goals in the first six minutes. It’s exactly what you want to see as a reaction.
“The last away trip we had, on the first day of the season, we were 4-0 down at half-time to Bournemouth. We started poorly and never really recovered from that.”
It could have been more comfortable, but Dingley was quick to reiterate that’s it’s not all about results in the youth game.
“A 4-3 scoreline doesn’t reflect the game at all. We were 3-1 up at half time and 4-1 up early in the second half. The boys have travelled a long way to Yeovil and the team at the end was a little disjointed, but I’ll take responsibility for that,” she explained.
“We had boys on the bench and we wanted to make sure they all got some game time and a good amount of minutes.
“The changes made such a difference to the game and when you end the match with most of the team being first-year players then they might get a little bullied at times, but they can learn a lot from that and it’s crucial they get minutes under their belt playing youth football.”
Rovers have spread the goals around at the start of this season, with only midfielder Dan Jones finding the back of the net more than once, captain Issy Jones adding to the growing list of players with his header at the weekend.
“I think I’ve said a few times, Issy [Jones] is a very good player who leads the team well and we’re a threat from set-plays because our deliveries from Dan Bradshaw are so good,” said Dingley.
“We want to get more goals from corners and free-kicks, so it was great that Issy got on the end of it.
“Dan Jones got on the scoresheet again in the first half and it was great to see Vaughn [Covil] on the get a goal after his experience with the first team during the week on the bench at Charlton Athletic.”
The inclusion of Covil in Mark Cooper’s squad to face Charlton Athletic in the Carabao Cup was a proud moment for the academy, and Dingley is confident it will drive her players on to greater things.
“The boy’s on cloud nine at the moment and we have a really happy group of players,” she said.
“He was absolutely buzzing and it’s great motivation for all the boys in the group. Vaughn’s a first year who’s only just turned 16.
“All the rest of the group are now thinking that that could be them if they train hard and take their opportunities then they could have a chance to get involved with the first team.
“For a boy playing youth-team football that’s what you play for, getting involved with the first-team and being involved on a matchday.”
The Academy take on Newport County this weekend, with the fixture now taking place at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester. For FGR fans not making the trip to Bradford, this could be a great chance to watch the next generation.