Teenage defender Curtis Nelson has attracted the praise of Plymouth Argyle manager Carl Fletcher after filling in for injured club captain Darren Purse during Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Rotherham.
A 73rd minute goal from Kieran Agard was enough to separate the sides but Fletcher felt that Nelson did well against a side tipped by many to be in the promotion places come May.
“He came in and did well,” Fletcher told BBC Radio Devon.
“We stuck to our task well at times defensively, but we knew it was going to be hard. We’re not a big side we’ve only got Nelse who is over six foot.”
“He stood fast and won a high percentage of his headers, with his athleticism, when he times everything right nobody can beat him in the air.”
Nelson was pleased by how he acquitted himself but disappointed to lose the game.
“It was a massive blow,” said Staffordshire lad Nelson.
“We defended quite well, and to concede a goal which is not even from their main threat – an aerial threat – was just a blow.”
“I didn’t even see the goal. It came through a crowd of bodies and finished in the back of the net.”
The England U18 international, who has made over 60 appearances for the Pilgrims in the last three season is known for his prodigious leap, a talent which he thinks has been brought on by working with Cornish Pirates’ rugby conditioning coach Simon Raynes.
“As you get older, you get stronger,” he said, “and I’ve been in the gym with Simon quite a lot. You work on those sort of things.”
“We defended the set-pieces quite well considering there’s probably only me and Jake who are over 6ft. The rest fall a bit short.”
With Purse and Maxime Blanchard ahead of him in the central defensive pecking-order, Nelson has had to wait his turn for first-team chances and hope to make the most of them when they present themselves.
“You’ve always got to be ready,” he said. “Not just me – anyone in the squad.”
“The manager’s got his starting 11 and, if you’re not in it, you have got to make sure you do enough to make sure you’re on the bench.”
“Then, when you do come on, make sure you’re ready and fit.”
“If you don’t play regular games, you are not going to be match-sharp, but you have got to make sure you do the best you can.”