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INTERVIEW: Young squad have impressed me says Coley

Reds boss looks ahead to clash against fellow Play-Off hopefuls Gillingham

12 January 2024


INTERVIEW: Young squad have impressed me says Coley

Reds boss looks ahead to clash against fellow Play-Off hopefuls Gillingham

12 January 2024

Accrington Stanley boss John Coleman is hoping his young players can turn on the style again as they welcome fellow Play-Off hopefuls Gillingham to the Wham Stadium tomorrow.

The Gills sit in 11th place in League Two, on the same points as the 10th placed Reds but with a game in hand.

Coleman admits he is thriving working with one of his youngest squads at his time at the club - with Wednesday night starters Brad Hills, Connor O'Brien and Alex Henderson all still teenagers and, apart from Joe Pritchard and Seamus Conneely, the rest are in their early 20s.

"It's great working with them, it gives you a spring in your step, a new lease of life," smiled Coleman.

"They are so willing to take information on and when they play, the output on a matchday is good, the running stats are good so that enthusiasm is what we are trying to foster.

"When you get that, you know that they want to play for each other, the club, for us and they want to progress their careers which has always been the Accrington way.

"The Accrington model is always to have hungry players who want to go onto better things and we will give them the platform to do that but we also get good service and results out of them."

The Reds boss is impressed with the way the younger players have stepped up, including attacking midfielder and Accrington fan Alex Henderson, who scored his first senior goal in the 3-1 Bristol Street Motors Trophy loss to Bolton midweek, and Josh Woods.

"Alex's goal was brilliant, he has the world at his feet. The times that he was coming on earlier in the season, he showed he could handle it and he is a serious member of our squad now.

"The one who has done the best is Josh Woods. We knew he had ability and could come on and influence a game but there were certain things missing in his game where you thought he couldn’t start a lot of games and that’s changed.

"He has grown into this role because he has had to and he is a really good player at this level and has shown what he could do.

"I wish he could get those goals he is threatening and I am sure he will. He has a tremendous character and he is starting to show that he belongs in League Two. I am delighted he has grabbed this opportunity."

The only downside is a long-term stomach injury to Birmingham loan striker Josh Andrews who has scored six goals for the Reds this season.

"It could be March before we get him back which is disappointing and we will maybe bring in another striker. We have one or two irons in the fire."

Gillingham started the season with five successive wins in all competitions but have lost three of their last five League Two games.

"Gillingham had a great start and, like us and many teams in League Two, have had peaks and troughs.

"We know they will be a handful on their day, they have had many a good result this season, and they will be trying to make things difficult for us.

"Home form will be vital. We played a top Bolton side here who are probably going to be a Championship side next season and there was no fear, we took the game to them, in the first half particularly.

"That's not saying we are going to win every game but we go into every game believing that we have a chance to win and we will try and win.

"Particularly when we play at home you hope that advantage tips you over the edge."

Looking back at the season so far, Coleman continued: "I believe the watershed moment was the Swindon game - going four down and coming back the way we did.

"I know we lost the game but sometimes you lose a game like that and it doesn't feel like a loss and it reinvigorates this team.

"Since then, there has been a belief in the team, an urgency, and an overall improvement in everything we do - running and passing stats, our control - everything is going in the right direction.

"Our first port of call is getting enough points to stay up. It would be disastrous for us to go down again and that's always been our mission from the last kick of the ball last season.

"We still have to get those points on the board and work our socks off to do that and then look at having a tilt at the Play-Offs."

As well as Andrews, Toby Savin, Jay Rich-Baghuelou, Liam Coyle, Shaun Whalley, Rosaire Longelo, Tommy Leigh and Matt Lowe remain sidelined.

Long-term absentee Seb Quirk returned to the bench on Wednesday while Ben Woods returns after a one-game suspension against Bolton.

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