Ricky Duncan reacts to the under-18's 3-1 defeat to Oxford United in the FA Youth Cup
Southend United's Head of Youth Ricky Duncan pulled no punches after watching his side go out of The FA Youth Cup in the Second Round with a 3-1 defeat to Oxford United.
Blues trailed 3-0 at half-time before Freddie Gard's 58th-minute goal gave the hosts hope at Roots Hall, and Duncan was clear that the first half performance was inadequate.
“I’ve just said to the boys in the changing room, to go 3-0 down in the first half the way we did was not acceptable,” he said.
“All credit to Oxford, who will feel they played well, but any team that came here tonight would’ve scored three goals the way we played in the first half.”
“We gave them too much space, we were too deep, too open, and it allowed them to play their game. There were bad defensive decisions and it was just awful,” he continued.
“I thought it was an awful half, both in terms of quality on the pass and the defending. Everything was wrong in the first half and we needed to put it right in the second half otherwise it was going to go on and be a lot worse.”
“We gave the ball away too much and they capitalised on that, so I think they deserved their result but, like any team, if you give them that amount of space and that amount of time on the ball, they are going to hurt you.”
Duncan made a double substitution at half-time, and he was pleased with the reaction to a change in formation during the second period.
“I told the lads at half-time that I was changing it and I brought two first-years on in Harry Norman and Freddie Gard.”
“I thought we were too stretched and I wanted to link the play a bit more in midfield, so I went three at the back, which is a system we’ve not played at all this season.”
“We took the gamble, and we came out in the second half and I don’t think Ted had a shot to save. We scored a very good, well-worked goal and we were just unlucky not to get the second because, if we had, then we might’ve been able to push on.”
“We won the second half, and you’ve got to take the positives from it. If the boys had shown the same desire and quality in the first half, then maybe it would've been different, but you’ve got to learn from it and we’ve come out in the second half and got a response.”
“I don’t think it was just a case of Oxford sitting back and soaking it up, we went at them and we caused them a lot of problems. There is something there, we know that, and it’s a young team.”
“There are no excuses for the first 45 minutes; it was an awful performance and I think this performance hurts more than losing 9-0 at Liverpool.”
Of more concern to Duncan, however, was the missed opportunity for the squad to impress the onlooking first-team management trio of Phil Brown, Dave Penney and Graham Coughlan.
“We’re out of The FA Youth Cup, and that’s fine, but that was an opportunity for the players to show that they deserve a chance in and around that first-team squad.”
“Every time they get a minute in front of the manager, they’ve got to take that opportunity, and they let 45 minutes slip through their hands tonight.”
“In the second half, some of them did show what they’ve got, and he was pleased with the second half.”
“We’ve got two weeks to get this out of our system before we play Portsmouth in the Youth Alliance Cup. The second-years may be disappointed with the way they played, but it opens up now.”
“The FA Youth Cup is gone for them, but they’ve just got to try and earn a professional contract and play in the league, and that’s what they should all be thinking of,” he concluded.