We played Newport in the South West Youth Alliance on Tuesday and came away with an unfortunate 3-2 reverse after snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Leading 2-1 with 15 minutes to go, we looked really comfortable and were playing the opposition off the park until cramp to Adam Page forced a five minute stoppage.
After this we never really got going again and conceded two from very similar situations with the ball played into the centre forward on the edge of the box, a lay-off, shot then a goal.
A few things to take away from this situation: keep focused and switch back on to play after the restart, centre-halves make sure you can see the ball and don't allow the forward to back in and don’t allow easy ball into the front man. Up until then some of our play was excellent, playing out from the back, switching play and with a variety of passing which was very pleasing on the eye.
We went in at half-time 1-0 down to a goal I thought was a couple of yards offside, but we came out in the second half quickly and went in front by the 60th minute with goals from Sam Mendes, two in two, and an excellent left footed strike from Alex Dinsmore. Overall it was another very good display, just slightly blighted by two moments late on in the game.
The pleasing thing is the boys are really taking on board what the manager is asking for during training. The key for any player is to then take this into the matches, which we have done on the last two occasions.
The lads have benefitted hugely from regular sessions against the professionals and the 60 minute games we do, as a development group, once or twice a week. I know over time we will see a big improvement in the majority of the players.
On Saturday we play Oxford at Seasons, looking to overturn the 3-1 defeat on the first game of the season. This will be the last game before the Christmas break, leaving us just Plymouth away and Swindon at home before the South West and South East leagues merge for the remainder of the season.
Wednesday night saw myself, Jamie Victory and the Under-16s coaches Mike Davis and Andy Bevan meet up with the players to confirm who had scholarships for the next two years.
I am pleased to say centre-back Matt Bower, right-back Taylor Cordell, midfielders Josh Thomas and Jacob Nutting and forwards Luke Thomas and Joe Hance all be given the go ahead to be full time with us next season. There are two more places up for grabs a left-back and a goalkeeper (probably) before the start of the 2015/16 season.
It is always a difficult night, especially as we feel this group is very close to the first year pro group now and we could have quite easily offered a few more.
The running of the BTEC Development group has allowed us to offer those not quite ready to play in that team and train with us during the week, giving them another two years with us effectively.
I would like to say thanks to all those players we saw last night for their attitude, professionalism and commitment to the club over the years and lets hope they all stay on. The lure of two weeks’ training in Lisbon with Benfica in July may persuade them a tad more.
Finally I’d like to say Happy Christmas to everyone reading this and to all Cheltenham Town fans.
Get behind the new manager and assistant Rob during 2015, as I’m sure we will be pretty quickly back on the up.