Having the academy players integrate with the first-team on a consistent basis in training and on matchdays made it a lot easier for Lewis Collins to accustom within the side when selected to start, according to the attacker himself.
Both Collins and Jay Foulston received their inaugural outing of the 2018/19 campaign in the comprehensive 3-0 win over Chelsea U21s, a game in which both players starred when helping guide County to victory at Rodney Parade.
Collins came agonisingly close to picking up his first ever assist for the Newport County AFC first-team but could only watch as Josh Sheehan rattled a shot against the crossbar, but the Exiles quickly made their dominance count either side of half-time as Jamille Matt scored two headers.
Substitute Antoine Semenyo wrapped up the scoring to put County top of the CheckaTrade Trophy group, picking up the ball inside the Chelsea U21s half before skipping three challenges and rifling a shot into the bottom corner.
It was certainly a useful exercise for Collins, who played 65 minutes of the contest, and here you can read what he exclusively told iFollow Exiles upon the completion of the game.
On getting his inaugural first-team minutes of the campaign against Chelsea U21s…
“I don’t think it was an easy win by any stretch of the imagination. We made it a lot easier for ourselves in the way we played, I thought we played unbelievably as a team.
“They came out, we knew they would be a footballing side, they like to get the ball and be pretty, but we’re a League Two team and sometimes we had to put the ball in the air.
“Jamille scored two goals and it just showed they couldn’t deal with it, Antoine then comes on and puts away his chance as well.
“It’s always positive knowing that you can get further and further in the competition, we’re top of the group now, but we just have to wait until Plymouth Argyle now and hope for the best.”
On how he settled into that first-team environment…
“I was happy with my own performance overall. Obviously, there’s a lot I can improve upon as well.
“Playing against boys near enough my age was a big help, last season against Cheltenham Town I played against men so that was a different game altogether.
“It was nice to play against players who are classed as the best players of my age in the country at the moment.
“I’m familiar with most of the boys in our squad to be fair, but having Jay Foulston out there, knowing there was another young lad out there obviously boosted my confidence. I knew my mate was out there with me as well and we could work together and things like that.
“But I get on with most of the boys really, so it was easy to fit in. I think we linked up well as a team – we all have a good understanding of each other.
“We struggled a little bit to start with because there was a lot of players involved from the first team and I haven’t trained very often with them.
“It was hard to come in and fit in straightaway but as the game went on, we adapted more in the first-half, and I could have had my first assist for Newport County AFC, but Josh Sheehan hit the bar.
“Just to even come into the team is great, I thought we linked up very well as a front four and couldn’t have asked for much more really.”
On the goals scored by County at Rodney Parade…
“They were really good headers from Jamille to be fair. The first one was all about the power, obviously the keeper helped him out a lot, but it was a very powerful header.
“The second one where he’s put it in the far corner is another great header, guiding it into a corner where no one else was. He deserved both his goals.
“Antoine’s a great player, his build and everything helps him out, but he’s also a great player with the ball at his feet as well. He showed when he came on that he could finish.
“That’s my competition really and at the moment he’s shining.”
On his plans for the remainder of the 2018/19 campaign…
“I’m just hoping for more minutes in the first-team.
“I’m hoping that tonight I showed what I could do and obviously like I said, there’s a lot to improve upon but hopefully with the gaffer’s guidance, I can do it. At the moment, if I’m not ready for the first-team in any given game then I’ll go and play with the youth side.
“Score goals, get as many assists as possible and get as much out of it as I can. Hopefully then Mike Flynn will notice that.
“We’ve had a rough start [the academy] but everything about the way we play football is encouraging, we’re scoring three or more away from home.
“Going forward, we’ve got no problems at all, it’s more about trying to cope with the pressure coming towards us. That’ll come with all the team as we bond, and we’ll get much better.”
On hoping to make his Football League debut …
“In the Carabao Cup [earlier this season] it was a really good team performance, so I wasn’t surprised I didn’t make it off the bench, the way the boys were playing made it a game where you didn’t really want to change anything.
“I hope to get minutes in League Two obviously, hopefully that might come against Cambridge United on the weekend, but of course I want to get more minutes in the cup competitions as well.
“At the moment, getting minutes in any first-team fixture is good enough for me.”
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