Academy one win from title

Argyle’s under-18s can guarantee the EFL Youth Alliance Merit League One title, with a win on Saturday against Portsmouth, and cap off a remarkable season for the Academy.

In many ways, the young Greens’ performances have reflected the first this season, with a stellar defensive record seeing them only concede once so far in the Merit League.

Whilst a draw would be enough to win the title if second-place Gillingham drop points in their away trip to Cambridge United, Academy goalkeeping coach, Rhys Wilmot, wants them to get the job done themselves.

He said, “We’ll be going for the win.

“We’ve won six out of seven and I don’t see any reason why we can’t win eight of nine games in this mini-league.”

Rhys’ knowledge has been a crucial to the Academy’s defensive, and subsequent, league success since he took over as head of Academy goalkeeping at the start of last season.

He shared some of his thoughts on the group of players who are one positive result away from the title, “They’ve applied themselves really well defensively and mirrored the first team in keeping a lot of clean sheets in a cluster of games which has been really pleasing.

“It’s always difficult for them when they’ve got, what we call ‘sideshows and distractions’ and they’ve remained brilliantly focussed on the task at hand which was winning the Merit League.”

Rhys continued by looking back to Youth Alliance league’s final day and how the players have bounced back since then, “We were disappointed that we didn’t win the Youth Alliance league on the last day against Bournemouth, because I think we deserved it.

“But that never happened, and you thought that might affect them in some way, but it hasn’t. “It’s spurred them on even more, I think, for a bit of success.”

The young Pilgrims are potentially 90 minutes away from a league title and it would be understandable if the players were getting a little excited.

Rhys though, was quick to shut that idea down and has been impressed with the way the young lads have gone about their business.

He said, “Because they’re so focused, you don’t get much from them and they don’t give much away.

“I’ve been impressed with the way they have gone about things this week, but I think they’re getting a little bit excited.”

And they should. Portsmouth are a side they have faced twice already in the Youth Alliance League, winning one and losing the other.

“We’ve had two contrasting games against them, both high scoring”, Rhys said.

“We had a very disappointing game away from home where we were beaten 6-3 and we had to press the reset button and go again.

“We then beat them 5-3 at home and it was a more convincing performance than 5-3.”

Rhys continued, “I’m expecting the same sort of game, I’m expecting goals but we’re not conceding goals now, so fingers crossed it’ll be goals for us and none for them.

“They tend to have a few players out on loan so they may well be a young team with under-16’s and first years, but we’ve integrated the 16s with our first team all season, so it’ll be no different for us.”

From Darren Way all the way throughout the Academy’s coaching staff, mentality has been a key factor in achieving success, and this is shared by Rhys, “Whatever competition we’re in; League Cup, FA Youth Cup, Merit League, we want to win it.

“I’m a winner, I want to win.

“That’s what we impress onto the players, that focus, that goal at the end is to win and to win whatever’s put in front of you.”

Rhys finished by sharing his thoughts on how well the players have done as they approach uncertainty with the prospect of professional contracts, “As a group of players, I have been immensely impressed with the way they’ve handled the situation toward the back end of the season

“We as a group of coaches, we impress on the players about how they’ve really got to concentrate on the here and now and what they’re doing and not worry about all those things on the periphery.

“They’ve done that very, very well, and that’s why we’ve got six out of seven wins.”

You can catch live updates of Saturday’s 12:30pm kick-off at Harpers Park on Twitter @PAFCAcademy.

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