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Wilcox reacts to latest Under-23s clash

9 October 2019

Under-23s manager Russ Wilcox provided his reaction to the team’s 3-1 defeat against Port Vale on Tuesday afternoon.

“We’re disappointed, not just with the scoreline but certainly the first-half performance. Performance-wise I expected more. Port Vale made it hard for us, and forced us into a back five at times and you always have to give the opposition credit,” he explained.

“Friday was a terrific performance against a top quality Under-23s side in West Bromwich Albion, who are Category 1, but the players will have learned more from today.

“We weren’t really at the races in that first-half. We went with a different shape to suit the personnel we’ve got and I think it’s important the younger players learn to adapt to different systems. We went with a back three and we never really got going in the game. Credit to Port Vale, they deserved to win it.

“The second-half was a lot better and we stuck with the three for a while before changing to the 4-2-3-1 which we have been playing, and when we did that we looked a much better team.

“It’s not all about the winning in these games but the first-half performance was disappointing. It’s a group that’s still learning, still developing and there’s more to come from us. I don’t think anybody was up to speed in the first-half. Our passing was disappointing, playing on their first team pitch and one of the biggest in the EFL.

“We talked about making the pitch expansive, especially with our shape as well, with the wing-backs getting high and wide, but we never really got going. We’ll look back on it and we’ll learn.”

Focusing on the positive aspects, the game saw Andy Butler and Andy Dales continue their comebacks from injury with a further 90 minutes each, while Under-18s striker Harry Jessop made a positive impact from the bench, scoring United’s goal.

Wilcox added: “It is a positive. He came on and gave us a spark straight away. He came on during a difficult period of the game when it was 3-0 but sometimes it’s a good time as a striker to come on because you have nothing to lose. He looked sharp, taking his goal ever so well with a left foot strike into the far top corner. I think that was the main positive today.”

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