After Wednesday’s 1-0 win against Port Vale at Ewen Fields, Dale’s U18 side have now gone four games unbeaten. Head of Academy Coaching Rick Ashcroft believes it’s important to finish the season strongly.
“It’s important for confidence,” Ashcroft told Dale PlayerHD.
“It’s important for the first years going into their second year and it’s important that we try and pick up the results like we have done in the last few games to build that [confidence].”
But Ashcroft insists that there’s still room for improvement despite the upturn in results.
“It’s not the be all and end all – it’s the performances we’re after, and the quality and standard within that. And that’s something we’ve been a little bit hit and miss with recently even though we’re picking up the results.
And while Port Vale didn’t even manage a single shot in the second half, earning Dale a successive clean sheet, Ashcroft believes the defence can still do more.
“I’m half pleased – half not. I want it to be more clinical and I want it to be more decisive. But you have to pat the lads on the back for winning the game, and you have to pat the lads on the back for another clean sheet.
“I think they’re building a bit of confidence in their [defensive] relationships. We’ve had an under 16 at right-back recently, and we’ve had Tyler back today who has been out for a while. In those elements it’s pleasing, but we always have to do more.”
Matthew Gillam scored the winner for Dale at Ewen Fields, netting his fourth goal in four games.
“Matty has been doing well and in the last month he’s started to become more consistent, but we want him to be more decisive and more clinical in and around the box. It’s pleasing for him and pleasing for the team, because we need to score goals to win games.”
With the second years entering the final stretch in their youth careers, Ashcroft believes the key to keeping the players motivated at this time of the season is continuing their recent form and making the most of the opportunities presented to them.
“They have all sorts of doubts going through their head – what’s happening, what isn’t happening.
“What does keep them motivated is playing when they have the opportunity and getting decent results. So with those things coming at the moment it helps.
“It’s difficult for the lads who don’t play as regularly as they want to, but they have to fight for their places and fight for the shirt. They have to perform all the time in training and outperform people to get the
opportunity, and when they do get the opportunity they have to take it.”
The full interview is on Dale PlayerHD.