U23s’ manager Mark Hawthorne paid tribute to the club’s senior players for playing their part in making the Hornets the surprise leaders of the Bluefin Development League South following Monday night’s win at South Park.
Both Dylan Merchant and Harry Mills played the full 90 minutes as they continue to work themselves back to full fitness after an injury-hit start to the campaign and Hawthorne acknowledged the pair’s contribution in helping their less experienced team-mates record a second straight win.
“Experienced players like Dylan and Harry obviously strengthen us at this level but it’s the support, encouragement,and advice they give to the younger lads that’s invaluable” said Hawthorne. “A lot of first-teamers wouldn’t want to drop down to the reserves or the U23s, I’ve seen it throughout my own career, but they conducted themselves brilliantly. They’ve both been out of the senior side lately so they were grateful to get some minutes under their belts, which is one of the things we’re happy to provide for Dom this season, but they’ve been great for the young guys, some of who are just 16 or 17.”
The Hornets’ 3-2 success at King George’s Field leaves them as one of only two sides with maximum points at this early stage of the competition with the other, Tooting & Mitcham, having played just once. “It’s nice to get off to a good start” admitted Hawthorne, “but we have come into this season a little bit blind in respect of the strength of our opponents so its difficult to read too much into the results this early on. It’s been a different experience for most of the squad, playing competitive football under lights, but the two matches we’ve played so far have been good games, entertaining games, with plenty of goals, and it’s shaping up to be a good league. There will be harder games to come but the important thing is that the boys continue to learn from playing together in a real game environment.
“We had a few lapses in concentration on Monday night, and went behind to an early goal just like we did at Three Bridges, but we’ve shown a good attitude to get back into both games. We’re always thinking about how we can improve and that goes for all of us, really. I find it fascinating watching the players develop, both tactically and in their ability. The boys are working hard and showing a real willingness to learn and you can’t ask for anything more than that.”
The U23s are next in action on Tuesday 1st October when they host Arundel in the Sussex County Cup. Meanwhile, their home league fixture with current champions Tooting & Mitcham, postponed due to the first team’s FA Cup replay with the Met Police, will now take place on Monday 21st October. Both these matches will kick-off at 7.45pm.