Keith Hill says Dale’s draw with Leicester City Under-21s in the Checkatrade Trophy will be a good lesson for his young side.
He named five players aged 17-and-under in the starting line-up and saw his side race into a two-goal lead.
The visitors fought back to level and take the game to a penalty shootout, where they claimed the extra point that was on offer.
“We run out of legs, there’s no question about that,” said Hill.
“For the first 35 minutes of the game, I thought were really good at keeping the ball and getting it back.
“Then we got deeper and didn’t really retain the ball as well as we should, but that’s the lesson for the younger players.
“These players have got to be tested. They’ve got to be put under stress, which they have been tonight.
“It’s real men’s football and they’re playing with some experienced players, but they’ve got to hold their own. Those three experienced players – Calvin Andrew, David Perkins and Jim McNulty – they can’t do their jobs for them, they’ve got to support them because they’ve got jobs to do themselves.
“It was important having them three in the side, but basically them kids have got to look after the older players, that’s what I was told when I was a young player. Looking after the older players with my energy, my legs and my brains, and in the first 35 minutes it was a perfect matchup, but they got tired.
“There are players there who haven’t played 90 minutes for a long time. In an ideal world I needed to make four of five substitutes because Juwon [Hamzat] needed taking off, [Florent] Hoti needed taking off, so well done to those lads for running the race.
“It was a difficult game for Luke Matheson because he didn’t get support down that side which was very young with [Florian] Yonsian and [Dan] Adshead, who needed to protect himself more than Luke, so it was hard for Luke, but I’m relatively pleased. It was a good game for me to give Yonsian and Juwon an opportunity to play.”
The draw means Dale have secured top spot in Northern Group B, earning a home tie in the first knockout round for the third consecutive season.
“I didn’t want to pick all the senior players, like we’d previously done.
“It was job done, we knew we were through and we knew a point would see us finish top, which is a home draw in the next round.
“We’ve split the winnings, with respect to prize money on offer for tonight’s game. So, I’m reasonably comfortable with the draw.”
Hill gave the Captain’s armband to Dan Adshead, who completed his first 90 minutes since suffering an injury in Dale’s previous Checkatrade Trophy game at Fleetwood Town.
“Dan is catching up really quickly after being seriously injured. He was right at the top of the fitness tree – he was in the zone with his vision and passing ability, and in top form at Fleetwood when he got injured.
“He’s now playing catch up and a long way away from when he reached those standards at Fleetwood.
“The real Dan Adshead is the one we should have been seeing in the last five or six games. I’m glad he got 90 minutes under his belt. “
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