Justin Walker was full of praise for his Derby County Under-18 side as they fought off Middlesbrough to win back to back away matches in the Premier League – North.
The win maintains their 100 percent record in the division since the turn of the new year, and Walker was quick to express his delight with the application that his side continues to show.
Walker started: “I feel like I might be repeating myself from last week because again the work ethic and attitude was brilliant today. The players deserved that result today and we are now showing signs of a really good team with two faultless performances.”
Walker was aware of the challenge the tie would pose to his side but felt as though, in the end, the win was relatively comfortable.
He continued: “Middlesbrough have a really rich history when it comes to developing players through their academy so we knew we were in for a good game today. We knew that we were going to have to fight today and that’s exactly what we did. Despite a tough first half, I though the win was a comfortable one.”
He was without the likes of Archie Brown and Festy Ebosele who have both been called up to the under-23 side to play on Monday. This, Walker admits, gives him greater joy than any win. The manager acknowledges that academy football is all about progressing his players.
“We were stretched in terms of numbers today but that’s just one of the problems you have to accept and deal with in academy football. We have to accept and expect our team to change,” stated Walker.
“The shortage in options today is just s testament to how hard the lads are working, and how well they are performing. You know, a lot of them have been called up to the under-23s squad and are another step closer to getting in the first team and that’s the real win; that’s what we are all here to do.”
Walker then took the time to commend the two goal scorers in the match, Jack Stretton and Eiran Cashin. He believed that the former just edged his man-of-the-match award.
“Jack was unbelievable today; I thought he was the best player on the pitch,” Walker said with a beaming smile on his face. “He just couldn’t find enough quality in the first half but he doesn’t stop. In the second half, he kept on working and got his reward with the goal today.
“Special mention to Cashin, though, who I also thought was excellent today and a close second to Jack. He was a leader, defended superbly and, of course, got the crucial goal to give us the lead.”
Walker ended with a message to his players about consistency. The coach wants to carry the momentum that his players have built up with their two crucial recent wins.
“We play Luton in a game next week. The lads had a nice break over Christmas and don’t need another break right now. The important thing now is to carry on momentum and build upon these good performances,” concluded Walker.
Words by Joseph Lightfoot