Dale’s under 15s bowed out of the Premier League Floodlit Cup last week, after a narrow defeat to Derby County.
The youngsters, who were competing in the competition for the first, gave a good account of themselves against the Category One side, and Lee Riley, Academy Coach, is proud of their achievement.
“We’re really proud of the players and the journey that they’ve been on,” said Riley.
“We lost 2-0, and although it looks like we were comfortably beaten, we weren’t.
“We conceded the first goal after 40 seconds of the game, so when that happens your game plan is thrown out and you’re wondering how the boys are going to react. They reacted really well and they competed for the duration.
“We kept ourselves in the game and the second goal came as late on. We were awarded a set-piece right at the end of the game and we’ve thrown everyone forward to try and get the equaliser, and Derby have hit us on the counter and scored. The score-line is 2-0 but for the 90 minutes in between the two goals it had been a close affair.
“I’m not going say we deserved to win, but I don’t really think we deserved to lose.
“Looking back, maybe if we had been a little bit more streetwise during the first 40 seconds of the game, then we don’t need to go chasing the equaliser in the 90 minute and it’s probably a scrappy 0-0 game.”
And Riley says he believes the competition will stand the players in good stead going forwards.
“I think the journey will benefit them in the future. They’ve had a great experience that not many other category three players have had this season, and we’re hoping that we’re going to see the benefits of this.
“We knew we weren’t going to win the Premier League Floodlit Cup but we were looking down the line and to see how it could benefit their development.
“Even at youth team level, playing in the FA Youth Cup can be a little bit alien to the scholars. The floodlights come on, there’s a little bit of a crowd, the senior management are watching, and they’re not used to it, so I’m happy that they boys have had experienced that now.
“Some of the players who played in the Floodlit Cup just turned 14-years-old, so hopefully that experience can prove to be a benefit when they play for the Youth Team.”
Should category three clubs be given the opportunity to qualify for the competition next season, Riley sees Dale will look to take part.
“Because a lot of other clubs will have seen our successes this season, I think the qualifying process will be bigger next year.
“A lot of the under 14s have watched us in the competition and two of them have played in every single game, so the 14s are already looking forward to it, which is good. However, at the same time, we don’t want the floodlit cup to be the be all and end all for the players. We’ve got a longer plan in place for them, other than just the floodlit cup, so it’s important that they see the bigger picture, and make sure they get down to business throughout the season.”