Academy preview | Luton Town (A)
Academy boss Darren Way is hoping his young Pilgrims can take learnings from a topsy-turvy 4-4 draw with Gillingham when they travel to Luton Town in Merit League One action this weekend.
Argyle led the Gills 3-1 last time out on home soil, before the game was turned remarkably on its head by the visitors, who led 4-3 heading into the dying moments. A late strike from the irrepressible Will Jenkins Davies salvaged a result for the Greens, who had controlled vast portions of the game either side of the Gills' blitz.
Way said: "Our take is being, we were 3-1 up, how did we end up 4-3 down? What events led to that?
"I don't think we recovered when it went 3-2, it [the game] was in chaos. We didn't look comfortable in chaos, and our decision making was wrong and we weren't getting up towards the ball. We've gone through it, we know what our actions and behaviours should be make sure that doesn't happen again.
"Having said that, Will J-D [Jenkins Davies] pulled it back to make it 4-4, which was the least we deserved. Unfortunately, if you have bad moments in the game, you can end up at the wrong end of a result."
Such harsh lessons are part and parcel of young footballers' development, and Way says the group have worked extensively during the week on ensuring that their consistently strong performances are not undone by moments.
He said: "I think lapses in concentration. That certainly is what we found in individuals not sticking to their roles and responsibilities. We've not done very well from dead ball situations this season, for example.
"That’s something we're working on, and the team understand what we're asking for, because it's very important for us - we want to win football matches. You know, we have to have actions and behaviours of what winners look like, and we’re working on that on the training ground."
It speaks to the high standards inside the four walls of Home Park that such a debrief was necessary. Having finished runners-up in the Youth Alliance League to qualify for Merit League One, Argyle remain unbeaten in the competition - with one win and three draws from their opening four matches.
Darren continued: "The players have always responded. This week, training’s had a real intensity about it, which has been good to see. We're coming up against a good team, coached very well by two individuals that I know. One is a is an ex-player that used to play for me and he’s very organised. I think they scored 84 goals in the Youth Alliance League and only conceded 12 - so we're going to be up against a real strong, while organised, team and we’re all looking forward to the challenge."
The trip to take on the Hatters is as challenging as the Greens are likely to face between now and the summer's break, with Luton picking up two wins and a draw from their opening three matches. For Way, though, it's challenges like this weekend's which will ultimately stand the players in good stead as they look to forge a career in the professional game.
"I feel, looking at the games in the Merit League, every game's been a real tough challenge, whether that's tactically, whether that's physically, or whether that's psychologically," said Way. "I think they've just been a level above the Youth Alliance challenges we face"
The lengthy trip to Bedfordshire necessitates an overnight stay for the young squad, and Way hopes his side can ensure return on investment with a strong performance. From there, the results will take care of themselves.
He said: "I'm keen to see whether our preparation's right, because the club have been great in allowing us to stay overnight, so we've not often done that with this group. So traveling away to a hotel and making sure our preparation's right, going into the game and looking at individual performances, we're looking for an improvement from last week."