Darren Way

Academy Preview | Portsmouth (A)

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Argyle’s Under-18s are back in action on Tuesday lunchtime, taking on Portsmouth in Hampshire.

Darren Way’s players come into the game on the back three staright wins in the Youth Alliance, all won with a clean sheet to boot.

In between that run came a defeat at Gillingham which knocked the Young Pilgrims out of the FA Youth Cup, but the response was to head to Newport County and win 6-0 on Saturday.

Now, the next test is the turnaround to head to Portsmouth to meet a side just below Argyle in the table, and who knocked the Greens out of the Youth Alliance Cup earlier in the season.

It is a test, though, Darren believes the players are up to, and which will educate them on something to come later in their footballing career.

“I’m a big believer in recreating what it is like to play in the first team,” he said. “From Gillingham, we got back at 4am, then the players had to show that turnaround toughness to go again at Newport away, and now we have to get up at 5am on Tuesday morning to prepare for Portsmouth.

“That’s life as a footballer. They’ve got to learn to understand to manage their bodies and minds really well, for them to perform at the level we are asking them to. I think some of the lads have shown excellent maturity in that area.

“After the FA Youth Cup game, the players looked like they had a point to prove to themselves, and when our team performs, and every player sticks to their role and responsibility, that’s what they can produce.

“By the way training went on Monday, you can feel that air of confidence in the group.

“Portsmouth away, in terms of travel and opposition, is one of our biggest challenges that we face. We’re looking forward to it, and we go there with a full squad.

“After going there last time and not performing in the way we feel we should, this is a challenge we have been looking forward to.”

Argyle are second in the Youth Alliance league table, looking to catch Bournemouth, who top the division. The Cherries are four points ahead of Argyle, but the Pilgrims have two games in hand, which could set up an exciting run-in, given that Argyle have seven games remaining in total.

While Argyle were winning 6-0 at Newport, Bournemouth only managed a point from a 4-4 draw at Cheltenham Town. While winning games – and indeed, competitions – is only part of the aim of Argyle’s Academy, Darren feels like the right balance is being struck at the moment.

He said: “We are second, we are in a good position. Bournemouth dropped points, and we have two games in hand on Bournemouth. We are in a healthy position to be competitive for winning stuff, which ultimately is what we want the players to be in a position to do.

“I think we have got the balance right between development and competing. That is healthy and good for the players. They want to put themselves in a position where they are challenging themselves to win things, and this will be an important game in enhancing our reputation to put us in a strong position."

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