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Coach delighted with youngsters' performance

20 January 2021

Under-18s coach Mike Whitlow was left pleased by the 'massive' performance from his young guns in their 3-1 win over Burton Albion on Tuesday afternoon.

A first-half brace from captain Nathan Caine was added to in the second by an ‘absolute super goal’ from Diego Edwards to seal the three points.

This was the fourth and final meeting between these two sides this season, and the first time that the Stags have come out on top, something not lost on Whitlow.

“[It's] massive. We haven't laid a glove on [Burton] for two games here,” he said. “Then we played them in the [FA] Youth Cup, [and] got a little bit closer.

“For them to actually play against opposition that, yeah, have beaten them three times and to come away with a win, it brings a smile for them.

“It's down to all their endeavour, their hard work and sticking together today.

“They've got a reward for it, and that's pleasing.”

The scorer of the third goal, Edwards, shared similar sentiments to his coach when asked about finally getting that elusive victory over the Brewers.

“It’s excellent to finally beat them,” Edwards said. “I thought that we should have beaten them in the FA Youth Cup as well, but it's just great to beat them.”

His goal means that the first-year scholar has now scored in four consecutive matches, and, after nearly a month without a match, Edwards was pleased to extend that form.

“It was excellent to get out there,” he said. “I’ve been itching for a game.

“I’ve been in good form lately, four [goals] in four [games], so it feels nice to get out there.

“I’ve been working hard in training, doing extra running, [doing] extra gym. [Doing] extra bits just to be the best I can, to get as many goals as I can, to help the team the most I can as well.”

In addition to Edwards, Whitlow was pleased with the way his front three went about their work at The RH Academy.

“There was a lot of good football today,” he said. “A lot of link-up play from the front three.

“We went with Jack [Deakin], Nathan [Caine] and Diego [Edwards] up the top with Shamar [Lawson] and Ethan [Hill] joining in to try and create more opportunities.

“It’s been a long time [without playing], and we thought: ‘right, let’s go and have a go.’

“For the first 25/30 minutes the impetus, playing on the front foot and putting them under pressure, was really pleasing.

“It became more of a battle then in the second-half, with the wind playing a bit of a part.

“They showed really good resilience at times, with Jack Deakin doing a momentous job upfront with his work ethic and his hold-up play.”

The only real Stags misstep was the concession of a penalty in the first-half, which Whitlow hopes the youngsters can learn from ahead of their next outing.

“This is where these young lads have to learn,” he said. “[When] you give a team an opportunity, the momentum can change. And then all of a sudden, you're thinking 'Aargh!'.

“[It was] silly, I've got to be honest. [They should just] kick it out of play, concede the corner [and] defend first.

“You see it at the highest level sometimes, players trying to let you run out and they get caught with it, but they reacted well after that.

“Today was more about: can they organise as a group without us?

“They can create goal-scoring opportunities. Some of the play today was really pleasing.

“Can it be better? Yeah. Can we be better decision-makers in the final third? Of course.

“But can we learn? Can they learn and develop as footballers to be better [in] the next game, when we come to Saturday against Notts County?"

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