Freddie Lapworth’s fine performance in Tuesday’s Central League Southern section win for Cheltenham Town’s reserves over Forest Green played a huge part in an impressive win for the Robins young second string.
With the first team in League Two action in the evening against Cambridge United, a youthful second string led by Russell Milton and Antoine Thompson took on a Forest Green side featuring a number of notable first team players, earning a pleasing 2-1 victory.
Scott Flinders and Rhys Lovett’s involvement with the first team saw Lapworth handed the responsibility in between the sticks, and the first-year stopper produced a number of excellent saves to deny the visitors, including from FGR’s January transfer window signing Shawn McCoulsky.
It is all a valuable experience for Lapworth and his under-18s teammates as they look to catch the eye of the first team management.
“I’m just trying to do my bit for everyone. It’s nice to be out there playing and to be given the opportunity. I’m trying to take that with both hands,” Lapworth said.
“The experience in men’s football, even in the changing rooms and getting used to that environment with the pressure is a lot better for building your mentality and reacting to pressure in the right way with your performance and whole persona.
“As soon as you see your opposition you sometimes think ‘he’s very good, how do I play against him?’ but gradually as you get older and play more games you see how you react to different situations.
“Playing against top players makes everyone else a better player really because you have to defend against players who have played a lot of League football and have men’s experience. When you’re bridging that gap it’s superb.”
Lapworth has already sat on the bench for the first team once this season – in a Checkatrade Trophy group stage match earlier in the campaign – and as well as having the opportunity to train with the first team goalkeepers and squad during the week he’s relishing being part of the overall set-up with the Robins.
“You get used to the right attitude and demands of a first team environment,” he added. “It’s brilliant the 18s get as much experience as the first team because it creates better players and because if you have to step up into the first team for any reason we’re comfortable and we know what we are doing.”
It’s the youngsters first full season at Cheltenham having joined at the end of his time with Oxford United where he spent six-and-a-half years.
He works with under-18s goalkeeper coach Gary Baines as well as first team coach Steve Book, however is also gaining equally important experience in a work experience loan spell with National League South side Gloucester City.
He joined the Tigers earlier in the month, and although has only served as backup goalkeeper so far has enjoyed being part of a group that have picked up recently in the form table as they look to fight away from the relegation zone two divisions below League Two.
“It’s fantastic. It is proper down to the wire football at the moment which is really great to watch. It’s great to be a part of the atmosphere – before and after the game – and it’s just reacting to men’s football and the situations and hopefully getting some minutes soon.
“Every game is a cup final at the moment. It is amazing how you can transition from youth football where it’s not as competitive into men’s football where everything is on the line.”