Our last game just before Christmas saw us deservedly defeat Oxford 2-1 in the South West Youth Alliance League.
Despite dominating the first half we went in at 0-0, with Oxford also having a player sent off just before half-time. Some of the football played was of a particularly high quality, showing an ability to keep the ball and make correct decisions (both in and out of possession), with the only thing missing the final end product needed to break the opposition down.
Our domination continued in the second half, the pleasing thing being we didn't panic even though we went behind to a breakaway goal after 55 minutes.
We have been guilty in the past of rushing play and going away from our principles once going behind, but on this occasion we continued to be patient and made Oxford work, eventually breaking them down after 70 minutes.
The first from Alex Dinsmore came after a scramble in the box from a Lewis Thompson shot and the second came when Jamie Goodwin scored with a fine side foot finish from the edge of the box.
So a well deserved victory it was and we now play Plymouth away on Saturday with just Swindon at home on January 17, before the SW and SE Leagues combine for the second half of the season.
So a break from the norm coming up with some different teams and venues to play at. The only previous times we would have played teams form the South East would have been in the cups or friendlies.
The three week break from games over Christmas has allowed us to take stock of the first half of the season and analyse performances both individually and collectively.
Big strides have been made in both departments we feel as a staff and we are all excited about the future and the changes that have been made over the last six weeks or so.
We feel there will be major and quicker benefits to the boys with their greater involvement with the first team squad in training, as individuals, as units or as a team.
This has been evident recently with left-back or centre-back Danny Reynolds and midfielder Reece Daly both being involved with the first team and gaining squad numbers. Just rewards for some fine performances recently in both training and games.
That makes it nine Academy players with squad numbers now - so a major boost for all concerned at Academy level. The next aim is to make a few of them into first team regulars.
As we start the New Year thoughts turn to Academy events coming up during the season and two notable ones spring to mind. Firstly the Easter tournament in Holland where we will be taking three of the younger age teams out to Tilburg and Breda to play against the likes of Anderlecht, Willem II, NAC Breda and PSV Eindhoven over two days. Then the second, a two week visit to Lisbon in pre-season to be under the wing of Benfica.
Looking at the itinerary here this trip will be a real eye opener for everyone. Three hours a day training under Benfica coaches at their state of the art training ground, with four games, one against their youth team and other top local sides. There are also cultural trips out to the local area and the chance to see the first team train and play as well. More to come on this in the future.
A very Happy New Year to all the fans from everyone in the Academy – let's hope its a good year all round for all teams at the club.