After seeing his young side bow out of the FA Youth Cup at the second round stage on Wednesday evening, Senior Professional Development Phase Coach Pete Haynes is hoping to see his under-18s take on the lessons of their defeat and turn them into a positive moving forward.
Two goals in either half helped Gillingham’s under-18s progress to the third round of the competition at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium, on a difficult night for the young Robins who conceded early on and struggled to find a way to get back in the game.
The Gills will now face a trip to Blackburn Rovers in the third round and Haynes felt his team will gain mentally from the experience.
“I thought on the night the better team and the team who were psychologically more ready for the game took advantage of that and did really well so credit to them,” he said. “Well done to Gillingham – we wish them all the best in the next round.
“It’s massively disappointing for the lads – we always talk about learning opportunities and it is a steep learning curve in terms of dealing with pressure, dealing with nerves and this environment so it’ll stand them in good stead for men’s football and their pros. Overall it’s disappointing because some of them didn’t do themselves justice in terms of how they can play so we need to help them with controlling their emotions and nerves with that.”
After conceding an early Ben Allen goal, the under-18s did respond well in the first half, but a George Sherminant close-range finish on the stroke of half time proved crucial in swinging the momentum the way of the away side.
“It’s never good to go behind early and just before half time,” Haynes added. “To be fair to the lads they have shown a lot of resilience previously when they have come back from being down or been on top and securing that, but it was a sucker-punch and we did have a good spell and had a good chance that we should have taken, and a couple of other half-chances that on another day we probably take and it puts us in a better position. But all around with not getting on the first balls, second balls, Gillingham were better at that on the day.”
Haynes’ side defeated Forest Green Rovers in the first round to make it through to Wednesday’s stage, and though their Youth Cup commitments are over for this season he still believes the club’s youngsters have plenty to focus on and look forward to in the months ahead.
“As we go on later in the season it’s a bit of a transition period with lads going out on work experience and tonight puts them in good stead for that because of dealing with the pressure they’ll get in men’s football.
“The Youth Alliance has been going well and the games come thick and fast now but it’s a good opportunity to bleed in some of our youngsters, such as the three under-16s we had on the bench tonight, so it’ll be good to bleed them in as we carry on with the league campaign.
“We always say to the lads that the next game is the most important one whether that’s a Youth Cup game, reserve game, league game or 11v11 with the first team – they get lots of opportunities and to be fair they take them and do well, so there is always the next opportunity and it’s now down to them how well they bounce back and how we help them to bounce back and relish that next opportunity because there are reserve games and opportunities with the first team, so it’s a case of dusting themselves down, picking themselves up and going again.”