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Competitive nature of County clash vital for Whitlow

17 January 2017

Under 21s' head coach Mike Whitlow said the most important thing to come from this afternoon's 2-1 victory over Notts County was for the senior players to partake in a competitive match.

In keeping with Stags' boss Steve Evans’ earlier indication, the under 21s fielded a very strong side which included nine first-team players, all of whom were in need of acquiring game-time to elevate their sharpness for first-team reckoning.

And with striker Danny Rose and midfielder Kevan Hurst getting on the score sheet, Whitlow said it was pleasing to see how intensely the first team players approached the game.

“It is always nice [to get wins on the board]. The intensity at the start of the game, with the experience that was on the field today, was incredible at the start of the game," Whitlow said.

“Sometimes, we got a little too many touches in and around here and there I thought. But fair play to them – they put their bodies on the line, and got back in and sat in.

“The most important thing is, the first team are doing really well at the moment, and these players on the outskirts, they are in and out, and they need game time."

The former Burton Albion academy manager says although the first team players were trying to win a starting place in Steve Evans' starting XI against Cambridge United on Saturday, the under 21s' players who made up the matchday squad will learn from being involved with players of that ilk. 

“This is a competitive game of football for three points, and it has got to mean something – the purpose of 90 minutes for them is showing the manager and the coaches here that yes, if you need us, we are ready and we are trying to push for first team place.

“With the young lads here now trying to get involved in this, they are trying to be a part of a very experienced team and learn.”

He further singled out the performances of several senior professionals, who were adequately complemented by the younger players in the side. 

Whitlow said: “[It was] a good all-round [game] for the youngsters.

“What a great thing for Kieran Harrison to play alongside Jamie McGuire for 90 minutes today – talking, organising, and as a 17, going on 18, year-old, this is how they are doing it.

“Jack Thomas, picking second-balls, getting in the box, and chasing back 40 yards to put tackles in, and you are thinking ‘well done!’. Bax (James Baxendale) was moving the ball well. So, there was a lot of pleasing things. 

"The manager (Steve Evans) and Paul [Raynor] came in today and spoke about attitude, commitment and giving them food for thought. 

"For me on my side with the youngsters, it was good to see how they deal with it, how they can get something away from this, and can they deal with this intensity and what’s being asked of them? So, it was really pleasing today.”

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