Steven Schumacher

Schumacher's Charlton Reaction

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The future of Plymouth Argyle merged with the present as the Greens progressed into the third round of the Papa John Trophy with a 3-2 victory over Charlton Athletic.

The Addicks scored early through Daniel Kanu, but Argyle quickly responded through Sam Cosgrove and Niall Ennis to lead after just over quarter of an hour.

Caleb Roberts scored early in the second period to make it 3-1, and in doing so the midfielder, who only turned 17 in October, became the fifth-youngest scorer in the club’s history.

Charlton got a goal back in injury time, but Argyle had done enough by then.

Roberts was one of five teenagers to start the game – the others being Finley Craske, Brandon Pursall, Oscar Halls and Will Jenkins Davies - all of whom have come through Argyle’s academy system. Jack Endacott and Freddie Issaka took that tally to seven when coming on as substitutes.

There was an eighth Argyle product on the field at the time, wearing the armband as Argyle captain. He was grizzled old veteran Adam Randell, who turned 22 seven weeks ago.

He, though, has paved a way for those following in his studmarks, as has Michael Cooper, the game’s unused goalkeeper substitute. The game was Randell’s 66th for Argyle’s first team, but before he headed to Torquay United on an educational loan spell, Adam’s only four starts to that point came in this competition.

Now, he is a fixture in the first team, and effectively ran the show in the midfield against Charlton. Manager Steven Schumacher was suitably impressed.

“Adam Randell was outstanding,” he said. “He looked like a man amongst boys. The way he is performing, he has become an established first-team player. He wore the captain’s armband tonight, and hopefully in the not-too-distant future he will be the captain of this club. It was only two seasons ago that he was in their position and using this game to settle himself in.

“I understand that a lot of people give this competition stick, the crowd was only 1,300; a lot of people don’t take it seriously, and that is fair enough. But we see it as a great opportunity. How else is Adam Randell able to perform the way his performing [without the experience] and how else will Caleb Roberts or Freddie Issaka or any of the teenagers at the back get an opportunity? Will JD played well again tonight – he has scored in this competition; Oscar Halls has scored in it; Caleb scored to become the fifth-youngest goalscorer for the club, and Freddie should have beaten that when he went through one v one.

“If we don’t take this competition seriously, if we hadn’t got through the group stage, that would be one less chance for them to shine. Playing in the first team in a league game is a different kind of pressure. This is still pressure, but it gives them the confidence to go and do it, and perform.

“Progression is good for a number of reasons. We get a few quid extra, which is a bonus. Now we’re only three games from Wembley, which is an incentive. But the biggest incentive is that the younger lads are going to get another game.

“Wherever we go now, there will be opportunities for them. I’m not going to suddenly turn round and play everybody we can, because everyone knows we haven’t got the squad to do that. We can’t physically play the same 11 or the same starting players.  We need the young players to come in and do what they have done tonight.”

Argyle’s central of three defenders was Oscar Halls, captain of the Under-18 team, a week after his 18th birthday, and starting his fourth first-team game, all have which have been in the Papa Johns Trophy this season.

Eight minutes in, Halls dithered on the ball, got caught in possession and allowed Kanu to score Charlton’s opening goal. It was undeniably a mistake and a costly one at that. However, Schumacher is not one for dwelling on that, and instead praised Halls’ admirable response to his early transgression.

The boss said: “The first thing I said to him after the game was ‘well done’, because we had a long way to go in that game and it could have been a tough night against a lively opponent, but he learned from that mistake and every time he got the ball again, he didn’t dwell on it.

“For us, as a coaching staff, that is saying that he is a bright lad. He has seen what he did wrong last time and didn’t make the mistake again. He was good throughout the rest of the game and enjoyed it. Fair play to him.  

“We see when they train with us that they can all handle the ball, they are technically good players. Their character is good and they don’t shy away. When you come on the main pitch and there are fans here and you are in the first-team players, a mistake like Oscar made can send people under.

“The team that we could field tonight was very young, very inexperienced, but it was a brilliant opportunity for the young lads. I’m delighted that every one of them stepped up and put a performance in that got us through to the next round."

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