‘We believe we have fitness in the legs now’

Ken Gillard hailed his side’s fitness levels as we beat Southampton 1-0 to advance into the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup.

In a closely-contested match, Matthew Dennis came from the bench to settle the tie with a superb solo goal, 10 minutes from time.

Gillard also believes the FA Youth Cup is a valuable experience for his players and this is what he said after the match:

on the performance…
I thought it was a good performance, I think in the first 10/15 minutes we were a little bit nervous and we started a little bit slowly and the boys looked a little nervous. After that I thought we calmed down and played some good football at times, we had to defend at times as well. I thought in the second half once the game started to open up a little bit we started to find little spaces and little pockets to play in. Obviously Matty [Dennis] coming off the bench and scored an outstanding goal. He made a run like that down at Cheltenham in the last game where he came on, does exactly the same but the ‘keeper saved it. This time he’s come on and scored a fantastic goal to win the game, then we saw the game out quite comfortably in the end.

on the difference between the two sides…
I thought we finished the game strongly. I thought the fitness level of the boys, I always go back and mention the trip we went on to Bali, where we played four games in seven days and I think the lads believe now they’ve got that in the legs and they can keep going and going. I think had the game gone to extra time we would have fancied ourselves in extra-time as well. Really pleased to get the win and really pleased for the boys.

on the starting XI…
They’re all good footballers. We’ve picked up one or two injuries against Chelsea and Alex made a really good recovery and Ryan wasn’t available. We thought that these boys have been training hard so we’ll give them an opportunity and that’s what they want. They play against good players, they’ve shown a good attitude so they deserved a chance and I’m pleased they got out and got the win.

on players stepping up to the under-23s…
That’s what it’s about. It’s about progressing me and Steve (Bould) speak every single day and we want players to progress up to Steve’s team as quick as possible and Steve wants his players to do the same. The FA Youth Cup is a great platform for these boys to go and show the first-team staff who were here today and their families. Playing under the lights, it’s a great opportunity for them to show what they can do, so, the sooner the possible we can push people up, the sooner we can have the under-16s playing with us and getting them ready for next season.

on the FA Youth Cup…
It’s great for their development. Over the last few years we’ve had a bit of success, a couple of years ago, we got to the final against Chelsea which was a great experience. We’ve been able to go to Anfield and playing there, so it’s brilliant. You also go to non-league grounds and playing there is great to. I remember playing Middlesborough a few years ago and grinding out a win, so they play all different types of challenges and this was a very tough challenge tonight. Paul (Hardyman) always has his teams organised, they were thought to break down, but luckily we got over the line so it’s really good to get into the next round in the competition.

By Sam Cox

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