Newport County AFC academy coach Declan Flanagan heaped praise on the whole squad for what he described as a ‘promising’ performance against Blackburn Rovers in the FA Youth Cup at Ewood Park.
The Young Exiles put in a performance befitting of the County shirt against their category one opponents – Rovers have beaten Manchester City U18 and Arsenal U18 already this campaign – but ultimately bowed out of the competition after a 3-1 defeat.
Ryan Hillier added another to his collection when converting the rebound after Tom Wright’s header was saved on 58 minutes, but Blackburn had already secured progression into the next round of the competition thanks to goals from Brandon Lonsdale, Luke Brennan and Sam Burns.
It’s still been a magnificent FA Youth Cup campaign for the Young Exiles as they became the first group of players in the club’s history to reach that stage of the competition.
And Flanagan says everyone connected with the club is proud of the players attitude and performance at Ewood Park.
He affirmed: “I thought the boys looked really promising in the second half. There were times in the second half where we looked like we might possibly cause an upset.
“The first half didn’t quite go according to plan but when we did manage to control parts of the first half, we certainly had good opportunities.
“Second half we played slightly higher up the pitch, looked to win the ball higher, and looked to create chances. If we had maybe put one of them away in the last 10 minutes, then we really could have gone on to cause an upset.
“We’ll look at the performance here, pick it to pieces, and try to improve upon it when we do our analysis throughout the week. But the boys did really well.
“You have to give credit to the group; I think they’re a fantastic group of players. We’ve really tried to instil that into them this season [character and belief] and there’s a lot of leaders in the dressing room who help with that.
“When you go 3-0 down away from home in the FA Youth Cup, it would have been easy to chuck the towel in. But they didn’t, they dug deep and tried to give themselves the best chance of getting back into the game.
“Blackburn are a category one club and we’re category three. We were very much the underdogs but the performance we put in was very pleasing, the boys did excellently in the second half, proving they can go toe-to-toe with a category one club. That’s excellent for us.
“The lads did excellently to get this far in the competition and they should be proud of what they’ve done.”