Ali believes EFL Trophy is benefitting our players

Having seen our under-21 side twice battle back to claim a draw against Swindon Town, Mehmet Ali admitted he loves seeing his side compete in the EFL Trophy.

Despite playing against a League Two side boasting numerous first-team players, our youngsters showed plenty of heart to recover from going a goal down when Reuell Walters put through his own net by equalising through Lino Sousa.

Then after Tariq Uwakwe put the Robins back in front, a late Jimi Gower goal handed us a point, with another coming by virtue of winning the subsequent penalty shootout. 

And Mehmet was thrilled to see his team go toe-to-toe with their older opponents, show plenty of resilience and experience the pressures of competitive action.

Speaking post-match, he said: “I love these games, I love these nights. I think they've got to be able to face that adversity and what you see is top players are able to deal with that and embrace the challenge that they've got.

“It's brilliant for them. The crowd are booing on the penalties and they get up if we give the ball away, and they've got to be able to experience that. They've got to be able to think clearly under pressure.

“We do practice penalties and we like to put them under pressure, and James Sweet missed yesterday in training so I was really pleased for him to score the fifth. Five out of five penalties was excellent and Karl [Hein] made a good save so I’m really pleased with the boys to have that pressure and come out on top.”

Despite those positives, Mehmet believes there is even more to come from his side who he feels could have won the game, and believes improvements will come at both ends of the pitch as they aim to make it out of the group which also includes Exeter City and Reading.

“When you're playing against men and a first-team, you can't give away any sloppy mistakes or silly errors,” he added. “We made two sloppy errors and they punished us - they had two shots on target and scored two goals. 

“Having said that, our boys' dominance and the areas we got into were brilliant. The frustrations we have as a group are getting into the final third and not putting the ball in the back of the net. 

“They cleared off the line twice and we should have scored more goals in the game; we had 11 shots on target so that was frustrating. It's brilliant we're getting into those areas so we have to work on the training ground to make sure we’re more clinical.”

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