By Chris Slavin
Neal Ardley was delighted to watch AFC Wimbledon get back among the goals with victory in the Checkatrade Trophy and he said that young players had enhanced their chances of earning first-team opportunities.
Speaking after the 4-3 win against Tottenham Under-21s, Neal said: "We purposely made sure that Tom Soares and Liam Trotter played in midfield with Anthony (Hartigan) and Alfie (Egan) because we did not want to leave it to them as young lads in there. They had two experienced players with them so that they learn. We played some really good stuff. Toby Sibbick scored a couple, coming back after disappointing moments. I could see that he was disappointed with himself after a couple of their goals, but we will coach that and it's great that he can learn. He has shown real character to score twice after that.
"Egli Kaja scored a good goal and he was a threat on the night. He has come back this season and shown us that he's worked on stuff. They are ever closing in on causing me problems for the first-team. Overall, I was delighted with it. Young players came into the team and did great, but so too did the senior boys. It was great to see Darius and Robbo back. Even though we conceded three goals, I thought that they were excellent."
Neal added that it was important to get back to winning ways, whatever the competition, after a difficult spell recently.
"We had been working hard on our forward play, we know it's something that we need to be better at," said Neal. "We have been creating chances, but not taking them. There were some good elements to that with our goals tonight. We played against a good footballing team who pass through the lines really well with technically gifted players. They scored some good goals against us and there are things we need to look at, but it was important that we won.
"We were desperate to win the game, it does not matter what the competition is. When they have been hard to come by you need to fight hard for every win. We put a strong team out and we scored good goals. It was important to try and do that too, given the recent lack of goals in the league. We got positives out of it. We will go onto the training field on Thursday with the aim of keeping it going."
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.
The full post-match reaction with Neal is on iFollow. Watch out later on for an interview with Egli Kaja after his impressive display.