Heavy rain last Friday put paid to Southam United’s home match against Pershore Town last weekend and Lee Knibbs’ team will be hoping for better luck when they visit Nuneaton Griff tomorrow, writes David Hucker.
While the first team have seen a host of postponements in recent weeks, thanks to Southam College’s all-weather pitch, Saints’ youth team have still been in action.
Having been dumped out of the FA Youth Cup 6-1 by Kidderminster Harriers back in September, academy manager Ian Ray was worried the confidence of his young players would be shattered, but they shook off that heavy defeat to put together a winning run of seven matches going into Monday’s Midland Floodlit Youth League Cup encounter with Bromsgrove Sporting.
But the run came to an abrupt end as Premier Division Sporting inflicted a 6-2 defeat to deny Ray’s team a place in the last eight.
Finding themselves four goals down to the counter-attacking play of their visitors, their cause was not helped by having to see out the last 20 minutes with ten men when, after using up their three substitutes, they lost defender Sam Wimbush with a knee injury.
Despite this, they were the better side, netting two goals through Robbie Stephans and Sam Cantalapiedra to bring the score back to 4-2.
But, with superior numbers, Bromsgrove clinically punished Southam twice more before the end.
Although out of this competition, Saints still have plenty to play for this season as, in addition to catching up on a backlog of league matches, their 3-0 triumph over Nuneaton Griff a week ago secured a semi-final place in the Birmingham County FA Midweek Youth Cup, the furthest the club has progressed in the competition.
Ray has brought in a new management team to cover the reserves, playing in the Athium Midland Combination under-21 League, youth and Midland Junior Premier League sides.
Andy Williams and Mark Tennant assist with the youth side, with Simon Walker and Chris Roberts, who joined from Woodford United, looking after the reserves.
Matt Widdowson is manager of MJPL under-18s, assisted by Hugh McCluskie, who is currently serving in Afghanistan.
Last year’s academy coach Darren Whitehouse returns after Christmas.
“Ian and all the coaches are doing great work with our youth and reserve teams,” said Knibbs.
“The reward for their hard work is showing in the young players’ performances and great team results.
“It has helped players like Robbie Stephans, at just 17 years old, to start two of our last three games and four others make first-team appearances.
“I believe in young players and giving them the opportunity to express their talent.
“My job is to help guide them through the transition from a youth to senior player,” added Knibbs.
After tomorrow, Saints visit neighbours Racing Club Warwick on Boxing Day (11.30am) and then host Stafford Town on Saturday December 29 (3pm).