Blues U23s played their first game of the year in a friendly away to Oxford United this afternoon.
Sam Barratt, who has come off the bench in each of the last three games including a nice cameo in Blues' 2-1 win over Accrington Stanley on Saturday, continued his comeback from ACL injury with 60 minutes, while Nathan Bishop and Isaac Hutchinson both featured in the game which ended 2-1 to the U’s.
Emile Acquah was on the scoresheet, converting the opening goal of the game, but Oxford came back to turn it around.
Despite the defeat, U23s boss Craig Fagan was pleased with the display.
“We started the game well and went ahead through Emile [Acquah] after a good cross from Ide [Osimeh].
“Emile was a handful all game, bullied the two experienced centre backs. He was excellent.
“They were quite strong so in terms of result it was a good result for us and a good run out.
“Harry Phillips was good, Sam Barratt as well, it was important for him to get some minutes. He got 60 minutes under his belt which is another step in the right direction for him.
“It’s hard to replicate match fitness, even when you’re training every day. Match fitness is a little bit different, but he was good in the first half.”
Fagan added: “Isaac [Hutchinson] played 80 minutes, Bish [Nathan Bishop] played the whole game, Harry Phillips has been involved in the first team of late and played 80 minutes, Eren [Kinali] and Matt Rush as well.
“There’s no substitute for match minutes, and it’s important the lads come and play because they’re still learning.
“It gives them the best opportunity to either get back in the first team or to be pushing to get back in the team, that’s what these games are all about. That’s how it should be.”
Blues U23s are unbeaten in the Central League, which resumes in the next couple of weeks, and Fagan was pleased to see a strong performance.
But he said there can be improvements in the final third.
“It’s about improving each game and putting things we do on the training ground into match situations.
“We could be a little bit more ruthless in front of goal. We had a couple of chances today where we broke on the counter-attack and we missed the final pass. That needs to be better because stepping up to first team level you might get one or two chances a game and they need to be finished.
“But it was a pleasing performance and one to build on.”