With illness, injury and three games in six days all causing First Team Manager Michael Flynn a headache ahead of Tuesday night’s Checkatrade Trophy match vs Cheltenham Town FC, Flynn turned to the talent of the U18s Academy players to help bolster his squad.
Evan Press (17), Tom Hillman(16), and Lewis Collins (16) were all drafted into the starting line-up alongside fellow U18s Academy player Jay Foulston (16) who has already appeared twice for the First Team this season; once coming on as a late substitute vs Southend United in the Carabao Cup and once playing 90 minutes in our previous Checkatrade Trophy Match vs Swansea City U21s.
U18s player Owen Taylor (16) also made the bench and came on in place of Marlon Jackson on the 70th minute.
It looked like the match was going to be a baptism of fire for the youngsters as the Exiles found themselves trailing 2-0 after just 11 minutes against an almost full-strength Cheltenham side. However, the young side soon settled into the match and would argue they had the better of the game for the majority of the 90 minutes.
Supporters’ Man of the Match, Lamar Reynolds, pulled one back on the 48th minute after a superb through-ball by Joe Quigley, and the Exiles could have had more with Reynolds firing a number of dangerous crosses across the face of the goal.
Evan Press probably had the best chance to equalise late in the second half but his shot forced a superb save from point-blank range by Robins’ ‘keeper Scott Flinders.
Speaking before the match, Academy Manager Byron Anthony said: “It is a fantastic opportunity for the academy players involved in the first team squad tonight. The development of these players is really important for the Football Club. The manager is keen to give the academy players a chance when the time is right.”
And after the match, Manager Michael Flynn also had plenty of praise for the Young Exiles: “I thought it was a brilliant performance from a team where I gave four people their debuts from the youth team.
“I thought the boys were brilliant, they played against almost Cheltenham’s first team and we were the better team. They would have learnt a lot tonight and it’s healthy.”
Photos from Yesterday's Checkatrade Trophy Match are now available on the Club's Instagram Account.