Forest Green Rovers head of academy Scott Bartlett believes his U18 side were unlucky after losing 4-1 at home to a “fantastic” AFC Bournemouth side on Saturday.
Having started slowly in the first-half, FGR found themselves 2-0 down at half-time but this is something Bartlett believes is down to the excellent performance of the away side and not the performance of Forest Green.
“I think as a whole, the result was probably a fair one just about," he said.
“I thought Bournemouth were excellent, particularly in the first half.
“So from our point of view, the reaction was great. We moved the ball really well and we scored a good goal.
“We got back into a game against good opposition but the first-half we started off just a little slow, not through lack of effort, you sometimes just have one of those days and I think we had an off day today.”
For many players, it can be difficult to try to overcome a 2-0 deficit and when Bartlett was asked what his message to the players at half-time was, it was simple: “Don’t get through 90 minutes and feel like you haven’t done enough.
“Go out and give everything in the second-half and go away thinking you can get something out of the game because football careers can be very, very short and games against Bournemouth at youth level are a good occasion.
“I just asked the players to show me what they’d shown us in the first four months of the season and to be fair, I thought they showed that in the second-half.
“Bournemouth are very good at what they do. Obviously, being a Premier League club, they’ve got fantastic players at this level.
“We know that to play and do well against them, we’ve got to be right at it and we probably were just a yard off today.
“But they were just powerful and strong and moved the ball really well. I felt they were excellent in transition today and fully deserved the win.”
Due to injuries to key defenders like Isaiah Jones, several changes in positions were needed in order to accompany these absentees, something Bartlett admits affected his team physically.
“Set-plays this season have been a real strong point for us, we conceded one in the fog in the first minute but sometimes there’s a bit of a mismatch in games and today there was certainly," he added.
“Physically we missed Isaiah today and his power that he gives us at the back and then as a result, we missed Sam Hendy in midfield.
“But we’ve got no complaints, we’ve defended set-plays brilliantly this season and today was just one of those days where it was a little bit of an off day.”
Following the Bournemouth game, Bartlett gave a full update on the progress of all the academy sides over recent weeks:
“The Under 16s performed very well again today and they’re looking stronger and stronger as time goes on and it won’t be long before we’ll be including some of those players into our squad as well, so it’s all progressing nicely.”
Several U18s also featured in the Gloucestershire Senior Cup for the first-team just last week and Bartlett believes this will not be the last time we see them in the match-day squad this season.
He said: “The boys that played added something on the night, the two full-backs, the two midfielders and the subs that came on did well in the game.
“Those games are more important than people probably appreciate.
“The reserve games and the less glamorous games can sometimes have a big impact on a first-team fixture when they have a game on the weekend. So we hope that four, five or six of the boys will continue to be involved as the season progresses.”