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Youth Cup Preparation

For the start of this week it was like any normal week…double day Monday, double day Tuesday, education Wednesday, but a single session on Thursday because we were playing Portsmouth on Friday.

We didn’t have a fixture arranged for the Saturday because it was in service (this is when coaches have to report but the players don’t, sort of like an inset day when you were at school) and therefore there was the fixture on the Friday to give us a run out and maintain our fitness ahead of our Youth Cup game on the following Tuesday.

On Monday in the morning we did a new passing drill because when we’ve done a certain passing drill and mastered it, we move on and do another one which we work on until we master it and so on throughout most of the season. This is just so that we have a range of passes from different angles.

On Monday afternoon we did some technical work with the technical coach and this consisted of doing short movements over cones to work our agility. We followed this with short volleys to our partner who we were working with and then mixed it up to headers back to them, thigh and volley, chest and volley etc…

Once we’d done that which was sort of our warm up, we did 3 v 3 games in a short area with goalkeepers and small goals. It was a real high tempo game which was a blower and you had very little space which meant making quick decisions to get half a yard and have a shot.

We played two 2 minute games and I think I scored the only goal in both of those games, probably a mixture of our finishing not being clinical enough and the keepers pulling off a few worldies. We did a bit more work after that, doing tricks by working with cones to ensure we perform our skills at the right time to beat defenders.

We did a bit of work with one of our psychologists on Thursday afternoon, we were working on team work skills doing different activities which were actually quite hard and we proved that by cocking them up. We all got together in a circle and had to throw a ball randomly to anyone in the group until it had gone round everyone and back to the start man.

We were then given the simple task of remembering who we received it from and who we threw it to because next time round we had to throw the ball around the whole group again in that same order. However we had to do it within 22 seconds (1 second for each person). Sounded easy too, but was it? No chance, we messed it up about three times in a row because either someone didn’t catch it, someone threw to the wrong person, messing around, or no communication.

After a few attempts we managed to do it and then we repeated the same thing but with five balls. All you had to do was throw a ball five times and catch a ball five times, but that wasn’t as straight forward as it sounds with balls going left right and centre, so you had to concentrate a lot. We managed to complete that later on, but it was a good exercise to learn about yourself and others in the team.

Match: Nottingham Forest v Portsmouth

On Friday we had a game against Portsmouth Academy at home, so fortunately we didn’t have to travel for three or four hours to their place. Kick off was at 1pm and so we reported for pre-match at 10:30 which meant we got a bit of a lie in. We knew that it was going to be a tough game because Paul Hart is their Academy Manager and we know when he was at Forest he brought through players like Jermaine Jenas, Michael Dawson and Andy Reid who have all gone on to play in the Premiership, so we knew they would be good.

From the off it seemed like 5 minutes before we even had possession of the ball, they passed it very well and their movement was class. However from a playing perspective it was frustrating and meant that we had to work really hard out of possession to get the ball back and prevent them from breaking us down. To be fair we defended really well as a team, I ran their defenders down all first half, winning a couple of free kicks and felt fit in doing so which was pleasing.

We managed to get ourselves ahead mid-way through in the first half with what was literally our first real attack. Rodders ran at their defender and had a shot from the right which the keeper got a hand to but I was poaching in their six yard box and managed to get a simple tap in following up from his initial shot. From that goal we grew in confidence and about ten minutes later doubled our lead from a corner when Tony got a header in and scored.

At half time I was knackered but knew I had played my part for the team and we were all told before the game that because of Tuesday’s game against West Ham, we wouldn’t be playing for the whole game to save ourselves, therefore we had a squad of about 24! I knew I wouldn’t be on for much longer so I made sure that I ran my socks off for the remainder of time I was on for my fitness’ sake.

The second half was still as good as the first in the sense that we worked really hard as a team and got on the ball a bit more and kept possession of the ball much better than in the first half as both teams began to tire. I played briefly at right wing because we switched to a 4-3-3 formation, but found playing there quite comfortable.

I came off after about 70 minutes having felt I put in a fairly good shift for the team. We ran out 2 – 1 winners – they managed to get a goal back towards the end. We had no injuries and confidence was high because we’d beaten what was a very good Portsmouth side and it was a perfect result before the Youth Cup next week.

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