Justin Walker believes that the loss to Middlesbrough in the Under-18 Premier League Cup is a chance for his side to learn ahead of some crucial upcoming fixtures in the league and UEFA Youth League.
The manager expressed his disappointment with the result and performance of his team at Moor Farm, believing that the basics weren’t met in their 2-1 defeat.
He said: “The goal was the only highlight of the game for us. We just weren’t good enough today which is unlike us at the moment. We didn’t do the basic things well enough and it’s cost us. We have some very basic principles that we expect from our players and they haven’t done that today.
“We are all very disappointed with the result and how we played today. Our application, work ethic and performance levels weren’t good enough today.”
Derby are involved in three competitions this season: The Premier League – North, the Premier League Cup, and the UEFA Youth League. That has meant a demanding run of fixtures for Walker’s side who have endured five games this month in comparison to the usual three.
On those demands, Walker said: “We’ve got a lot of competitions to focus on this year, which is brilliant for the lads, but it is demanding. Our challenge over the last few weeks was to try and stay in all three competitions and technically, we have still done that, but a result today would have helped.
“We just need to focus on the standard of performance that we expect and know the players can maintain. If we continually do that then we will do well in all of the competitions.”
The Rams had won five consecutive games before this defeat, including a staggering 9-2 aggregate riot against FC Minsk to prevail to the next round of the European competition.
Walker praised his side for the month they’ve had but doesn’t want to use their heavy few weeks as an excuse for their recent defeat. He said: “The lads have been magnificent over the last month. There are always blips in youth football and today was just one of them. You can’t lose sight of why we’re here. The 23’s have won, and [Max] Bird and Morgan [Whittaker] – who played in that team that emphatically beat Minsk – have been included in the first-team squad this weekend so we can’t ever use that as an excuse.
“It is a reminder of why we’re here and it’s showing how much our young players are progressing all the time. They’ve had a positive period but today just wasn’t our day and we only have ourselves to blame for that.”
Finally, the manager claimed that the defeat will serve as a learning curve to his players as they look to get back to winning ways as soon as possible.
“Today is a waste if we don’t learn from it. Everyone is going to be hurting over the weekend – myself included – but we look forward to getting back together on Monday and putting things right ahead of the UEFA Youth League,” Walker concluded.