Blackpool Youth were soundly beaten by Port Vale on Saturday, mainly due to a poor start that saw them two goals behind after just six minutes.
The Seasiders left themselves a mountain to climb and despite improving, John Hills’ side never really recovered from the disappointing opening.
“The opening ten minutes killed us,” said Hills. “When you start as slowly as we did and gift teams two goals, you’re always going to struggle.”
Port Vale’s opening goal came after two minutes, and was one of sublime dexterity as Joshua Croft beat two Pool players down the right wing, before cutting inside onto his left foot and spectacularly curling a shot into the top corner.
Vale doubled their lead in much simpler fashion. Richard Swanby pulled the ball back from the by-line and Ollie Marland couldn’t miss from five yards.
Hills played a side containing mainly first year scholars, as well as some under 16’s, and he’s urged them to react well to the defeat and make improvements.
“It was a chance for the first-years to step up to the mark, that’s what I was expecting.”
Pool did push to get back into the game and had several chances, coming closest ten minutes before the interval through Emmanuel N’Daw.
Josh Ling’s corner was only cleared as far N’Daw who thundered a 30-yard strike off the cross bar, with the goalkeeper well beaten.
The game lacked quality overall and any hopes of a Blackpool revival were extinguished on 73 minutes.
Swanby was played through and struck his shot underneath Connor Hunt’s body to make the score 3-0 and put the result beyond doubt.
The match was the first competitive game since September for Ling, and Hills was pleased to see the midfielder out on the pitch again.
“He’s great lad, who’s been out for a few months and worked really hard to get himself fit. It was great to see him back out there.”
Another positive for Blackpool, was the debut performance of defender Joe Moulden; another under-16 to be brought into the development squad this season.
“He was a bit nervous at the start, which is to be expected but he won his headers and competed really well.”
Hills believes the number of under-16s playing in the development squad this campaign bodes well for next season.
“I’m looking forward to next season; I think we’ll have a strong squad with the under-16s we have coming through. I think the first-years can become strong second-years, even though they didn’t show that today. We’ll work on that and I know we can get it right.”