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Clark: We need to be wiser

Simon Clark disappointed with set-piece defending against Mansfield

22 August 2017

Simon Clark was disappointed to see his Notts County Under 18s side lose 2-1 to Mansfield Town on Saturday morning.

The young Magpies took the lead through Kion Etete's header in the first half but two Stags goals in quick succession saw Notts fall to defeat.

"We were bright in the warm up, started the game well and could have scored within a minute and a half," he said. "We were excellent in the first half of the game. We moved the ball quickly, had good movement patterns and created chances.

"The only negative in the first half was that we gave away too many free-kicks in our defensive third. We were a little too aggressive and irresponsible in our decision making when we didn't have the ball."

The lead professional development phase coach wants his side to learn their lessons from the game before their trip to Lincoln City in the Youth Alliance Cup on Saturday morning.

"When you play against sides who are physically stronger and bigger than you, you have to defend cleverly. You have to be aggressive but in a controlled manner.

"As a coaching staff, we often talk about games being frenetic in the opening 10 minutes, which we expect. We want to press high and effect them when they are on the ball.

"After that we need to be calculated and wiser while still playing at speed, because that's what unlocks teams."

Simon Clark

Despite taking a 1-0 lead into the break, two second-half goals from Mansfield saw the hosts emerge victorious and Clark was left ruing his side's shortcoming at set-pieces.

"We had a real identity in the first half and played so well but it dissipated in the second half," he said.

"They pressed us higher which saw us lose our bravery to play - we were hooking things on, not playing out from the back and hitting long balls to a back five which meant we kept turning the ball over.

"We stopped giving away so many free-kicks but with the nature of the game being about winning the second balls, we didn't defend sensibly enough. They gained momentum, got position up the pitch and we conceded on 68 and 71 minutes to two set-pieces which is really disappointing.

"We were always going to struggle because of the physical advantages they had over us but I said at half-time if we dominate the ball they are nowhere near our goal and we get better position further up the field."

There remains plenty of room for improvement for the youngsters but Clark is determined to stay positive and generate both performances and results.

"We seem to be able to play for certain periods of a game, which is usually about 45-50 minutes at the moment. There will be times in the game when the opposition have the better of things but that isn't being caused by them; it's because we aren't dominating the ball.

"We haven't kept a clean sheet in our opening three games yet, which is an important thing we need to rectify. We want to create footballers who are not only good enough for the first team here but who can also go on to play at a higher level.

"We are seeing real progress but we also want to win football matches because winning breeds a certain camaraderie, momentum and confidence."


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