Worthing Football Club’s under-18 lead coach Brannon O’Neill believes Monday’s 6-0 FA Youth Cup defeat at Millwall will be an experience the team learn from.
It was the second successive year Worthing had met league opposition in the competition, after a 3-0 defeat at home to Middlesbrough last season.
Millwall opened the scoring after just seven minutes and led 2-0 at half-time as Worthing keeper Ethan Belward made a string of fine saves.
The hosts then struck twice early in the second half and scored two more late on.
O’Neill said: “It was a great experience and although it was disappointing because of the number of goals we conceded, you have to take your hat off to the quality Millwall had, with their power, strength and pace.
“There’s no better opportunity for the team than playing against a professional club. Our players were terrific the whole night – their attitude and application was great but they were just a bit overwhelmed.”
A number of youth team players have featured for Worthing’s first team this season in the Ryman League Premier Division and O’Neill said: “We definitely attract the quality in and around the area, people are buying into what the club are trying to do with the youth set-up.
“The opportunities players get through the club, whether it is through the youth system itself or opportunities in the first team, they’re really grasping and taking everything on board.”
On his aims for the rest of the season, O’Neill said: “Just to keep developing players to play their highest potential. We’ve got a very big squad, so rotation is key. If we can keep getting players in and around the first team and progress in their own development, that would be a great season for us.
“We’ve already had seven or eight come through, which has been brilliant. They’ve held their own and there’s been a couple of senior goals for the boys, so they’re really pushing on.”
Reflecting on the match at Millwall, Worthing first-team joint manager Jon Meeney said: “There’s positives to take and the team have got to focus on what went well but also focus on what didn’t go so well, so they can push forward.
“It was a great experience and one that they can use as motivation.”
Meeney believes matches like that are important for players’ development and added youngsters will always get a chance in the first team: “We want more of those type of games, so they can progress with their careers. Hopefully that’s here but if other opportunities come along, then they will be the best equipped they can be for other nights like that.
“We had a different crop of players this year to last year, so that’s also testament to the recruitment and the good work of Calvin Buckland, Brannon, Zaki Rahman, Steve Hoare and the whole club.
“Young players will always get opportunities with the first team. Gary and I will be brave and we’ll give them opportunities but what we’ll also look to do is develop the player, develop the person and see how it goes from there.”
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