Doncaster Rovers manager Richie Wellens has spoken out about the pride his young Rovers side gave him after they battled to a 2-0 defeat against a very experienced Stoke City on Tuesday night.
The challenge of going away to an experienced Championship side, who have also started the season extremely well, was always going to be a difficult ask.
Doncaster, though, a team filled with youngsters, fought hard and managed created positive moments in the match of their own.
After going down 1-0 in the first half, Wellens ringed the changes at the break bringing on the more experienced Tommy Rowe. Early in the half, a perfectly timed run got Rowe in behind the Stoke defence and Potters keeper Adam Davies needed two attempts to collect and prevent the Rovers No.10 from tapping in.
Despite the positive start to the second half, Stoke soon doubled their lead when Sam Surridge managed to find space between the Rovers’ defence. The ex-Bournemouth striker was able to bring the ball down under no pressure and slot the ball home.
Rovers continued to work and chase at the Potters, their best chance of the second half falling to Rowe again, whose effort on target was deflected into the arms of Davies.
The starting line-up included 19-year-old Ben Blythe, while Ethan Harrison came off the bench to become the third-youngest player ever to make his debut for Rovers at the age of 16years and 121 days.
After the match, Wellens said that he saw the beginnings of a bright future for the club, despite the result.
“I thought our young kids were outstanding. If you look at the average age of that squad with Ben Blythe, Branden Horton, Charlie Seaman who came on, Aidan Barlow, Matt Smith – there are so many positives, so many really good performances”, said Wellens, as quoted by the club’s official website.
“I’ve come out of it feeling quite positive – I hate losing but there were some really good performances from the young lads. They can take a lot of confidence.
“I enjoyed watching my team on Tuesday. The areas we got in, and the style of football to get in those areas was really good. We need more penetrative runs and more first contacts in their box, but other than that, I’m really proud of the young players.”
“I’ve seen a team of players that were well organised, and a group of players who played with freedom and expressed themselves. In the long-term, we’ll grow from this.”
This is a bright sign of things to come for Doncaster, having young talents such as these coming through the ranks and being given game time so early. Playing Stoke at the Bet 365 was never going to be easy and 2-0 is a scoreline not only the manager should be proud of but the young players should be too.
There is an abundance of talent within these lower leagues and more and more now these young players are being given a lot more chances to showcase their abilities, regardless of age. It’s as the saying goes, ‘if you’re good enough, you’re old enough’.
You only have to look no further than Dele Alli. He made his first-team debut in League One for MK Dons at the age of 16 and last weekend he scored the match winning goal in the Premier League for Spurs in his 7th season at the club. Alli’s rise in football is one these young lads at Rovers should be aiming to replicate.
It’ll be very interesting to keep tabs on these potential future stars over the coming years to see just what kind of journey they go on.