Manager Brian Barry-Murphy has praised his side’s performance in Tuesday night’s EFL Trophy tie against Manchester United Under-21s.
Dale secured a point from the highly entertaining encounter at the Crown Oil Arena and now sit second in Group B ahead of their final group stage game against Salford City next month.
Several young players, including Ethan Brierley, Harrison Hopper and Fabio Tavares lined up against United and the Boss was delighted to see them thrive alongside experienced players such as Matty Done, Jimmy Keohane and Jim McNulty.
“These cup competitions, especially for us over the last few years, have arguably been some of my best memories because of the players that we’ve introduced into this competition, combined with the response of the older players to go alongside them. That was never better illustrated than tonight, in what I thought it was a brilliant night for us.
“When you’re making changes [to your starting eleven], it takes the lads a little bit of time to get adjusted to the relationships within the pitch, but I thought when we had good spells of possession in the first half we were the dominant force in terms of chances created, which is good for us.
“In the second half I thought there was only one team who was going to win it. I was confident that we’d create chances and we did. I was confident that we would score, but we did everything but. But there’s so much more to speak about from my point of view than the end result, which was a draw for us, because I’m thorough pleased with the way we’re progressing as a group.
“We haven’t played Manchester United in this competition in my time here, so to get them was something different and very exciting. To dominate them so much and create so many chances against them was testament to the work the players are putting in.
“The opposition went to Salford and beat them 6-0 in the last round of games so they maybe thought that they were going to be in for something similar tonight, but our team was equally as young in terms of the personnel. To see the likes of Harrison Hopper, Ethan Brierley and Kacper Mialkowski go up against their age bracket and even guys who are slightly older is a good test of where they are as young players. To see them dominate and get the upper hand so much as the second half progressed, both technically and physically, is testament to the progress that those guys are making and is a huge part of what we want to be and what we’re doing as a Club.”
Over the last few years Aaron Morley, Daniel Adshead and Luke Matheson, to name just three, have all made their Dale debuts in the EFL Trophy, and BBM says it’s an important competition for the Club.
“It’s a combination, and that combination we’ve always had is one the most satisfying and one of the most rich parts of the Club when you see those young lads combining with the older lads. The response you get from Jim McNulty, Matty Done, Matty Lund, Stephen Dooley is brilliant - they just want to be around those young players.
“I was that guy a few years ago and I was very lucky to do it, and I still look back on it as being one of the most satisfying times of my career when you play with guys like Jamie Allen, Callum Camps and Andy Cannon and you’re part of their journey. It’s such a significant competition for us as a Club and so satisfying from our point of view.”
Kacper Mialkowski made his Dale debut on Tuesday in the match, coming on as a second half substitute to replace his friend and fellow 16-year-old Ethan Brierley.
“Ethan has probably taken a lot of headlines because of his prominence in the squad at the moment but Kacper has been working very, very hard in pre-season and, again, there’s a characteristic about those guys, and particularly those two together, who are very hard working local guys who have been in the Academy with Lee Riley and Ryan Ball [former Academy Goalkeeping Coach] who has now left the Academy. [Lee and Ryan] played significant parts in their progress and to see them come into our environment is satisfying for us all.
“It’s testament to those ones who probably go under the radar in the early stages of the Academy but then come to the fore as they develop later on in their careers. It probably gives huge hope to those guys who are a little bit behind in the earlier stages but catch up as they go.”
Watch BBM’s interview in full on iFollow.