Town’s teens earn high praise from Awford

Connor Tomlinson scores at Hitchin on Wednesday evening
Connor Tomlinson scores at Hitchin on Wednesday evening
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Town’s crop of youngsters were lauded by youth academy and development manager Andy Awford for their efforts to rescue a 2-2 draw during last night’s pre-season friendly clash at Hitchin Town.

With only Frankie Musonda and Akin Famewo having any Football League experience in the starting line-up, it was an incredibly young side who took to the pitch at Top Field.

It was a really good work out really good character and a good first run out.

Andy Awford

That inexperience was demonstrated in the first half as the Canaries moved 2-0 in front and were odds-on favourites to increase their tally after the break.

However, the Hatters belied their years with an impressive display, as Connor Tomlinson and Jack James were on target, with Luton looking the more likely side to win it late on too.

Speaking afterwards, Awford refuted the suggestion that performances were more important than results, even in pre-season, as he said: “Let me correct you there, they are important, we need to win every game that we play, as the winning mentality is really important.

“Although in pre-season people don’t read too much into it, we want to win every game when we go on the pitch.

“We were disappointed to draw the game with the amount of chances we had second half and obviously more disappointed to be 2-0 down at half time.

“But what we did show was a bit of character to come back. It was good finish from Connor Tomlinson for the first and great little bit of play and nice finish from Jack James for the second.

“We could have gone on and maybe won it but then we’re down to 10 at the end with a couple of lads coming off with cramp, so it was a really good work out really good character and a good first run out.

“It’s the first game and we’ve been back just over a week, but we haven’t done a lot of tactical work and structural stuff just yet, it’s all been fitness based.

“So it was a real good work out for them and I’m pleased with how they came through it.”

On the two goalscorers, who both produced astute finishes from close range, Awford continued: “Connor worked hard, played with an intensity and deserves his goal. He took it well, he had one chance and took it, so I’m pleased for him.

“Jack’s was a great finish, I think Danny Hylton would have been pleased with that.

“Jack’s managed to score a couple with the 18s last year. He’s a fit boy and manages to get in the box at timse and it was quite a cool finish.

“I was quite impressed with that for a defender, so well done to him.”

However, it was the second half substitutes who really caught the eye, with the likes of Callum Stead impressing, having a big hand in James’s leveller and almost setting up Scott Belgrove for a winner.

Awford said: “Callum did well, he livened things up a bit up there.

“The front two before the substitutions combined well for the first goal, Michael Shamalo’s won it and then slid Connor through for a decent finish.

“Then Callum Stead’s been a little bit of a pest all night which is what Callum’s game is.”

With the final side containing a host of 15 and 16-year-olds, Awford was pleased how they handled the occasion in front of a crowd numbering over 1,300.

He added: “I said that before the game. I said to Toby Byrom who came on at left back, he’s 15, only out of school three weeks, so it’s a big thing for him.

“The manager’s here, you lot (press) are here, it’s a big thing and that’s what I said about winning.

“It’s important that we set that tone, tonight they set it, they put down a good marker. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, course it wasn’t, there’s lots of things to work on, but we got a good work out from it, and so did Hitchin.”