Mike Whitlow, U21s coach at Mansfield Town, insisted his U21 foundation team have been a ‘credit’ this season, despite losing 3-1 in yesterday’s Midlands Conference University Plate final.
Based at Brooksby Melton College, the U21 foundation team are on a two-year degree which aims to improve their football skills at a professional capacity.
They faced Oxford Brookes yesterday at Oxford City’s Marsh Lane Stadium, and despite Quirino Diaz giving Stags the lead heading into the break, they ended the afternoon as runners-up in the tournament.
Whitlow reflected on a positive first-half showing from his side, and gave credit to Oxford Brookes, who came out a different side after the interval.
“We played really well in the first-half, we were 1-0 up at half-time and were the better side," he said.
“Credit where it’s due to Oxford though, they rallied for the second-half and put their bodies on the line.
“We had chances to win the game, we hit the post in the second-half, but like I said, credit where credit is due for Oxford. They defended like Trojans in the second-half.”
Whitlow also looked back on what has been a hugely successful season for the U21 foundation team, who ended the season with a huge goal difference of +45, despite only playing five games.
“It’s disappointing to end a really good year with a loss but yesterday was a great learning curve for the lads.
“They have really come on a lot this year, with some of them managing to get deals at non-league clubs.
“They have been a credit on and off the field, in training and in the classroom. They came here to improve their football skills at a professional level and they’ve done that.
“They’ve worked really well with Richard [Cooper] in training, it’s been fantastic. Like I said, they’ve been fantastic.”