Justin Walker praised his Derby County Under 18s’s ‘resilience’ after they scored late to earn a draw despite being behind three times against Aston Villa.
Archie Brown headed home from a Jaden Charles corner with what was the last action of the game, making it 3-3 to close off a thrilling encounter with yet more entertainment.
Under-18s boss Walker was proud of the character his side showed throughout the 90 minutes, saying: “Nothing surprises me with this bunch, they’ve shown these levels of performance for the last few years.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that they’re made of the right stuff – they’ve got good resilience and mental toughness. Though we lacked a bit of quality today, the character remained and we dug a result out.
“We had to show a lot of steel. I’m proud of every one of them, especially Archie [Brown], he worked hard for that goal.”
The result means the young Rams must await other results before understanding their fate in the Premier League Cup; Walker believes this is a position his side should not be in.
He said: “We hope we’ve done enough to qualify, if not we’ll look back knowing we’ve only got ourselves to blame because of our defeat to Middlesbrough. That was a game we know we should’ve won.
“We got to the semi-finals last season so if we were to go out at this stage it’d be immensely disappointing. However, if we do make it through, we’ll almost view it as a second chance.”
The Under-18s have a busy schedule of fixtures ahead with four matches to come in the space of 11 days, across three separate competitions. This begins on Wednesday when they welcome IA Akranes to Pride Park as they look to extend their UEFA Youth League journey by another game.
On this build-up of matches, manager Walker said: “It’s hectic, but exciting. We have four games in a short period of time. We’re playing at Pride Park in the Youth League.
“These are the kind of experiences you live for as a young footballer. If we manage to progress, brilliant, if not we move on.”
Words by: Jack Hasler