STEVE Hale continues his diary from the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland...
After our defeat to Everton, the mood in the camp was one of disappointment having performed so well. In the Milk Cup there is no time to feel sorry for yourselves, you have to move onto the next game. As part of the whole experience it's important the players rest up properly but we as staff also have to manage their time effectively.
As part of their learning experience we take them to watch other games to study how other teams play and how players that play in their respective positions play. Therefore, at the Coleraine show ground where we have a good reputation as a club, we took the players to watch the Elite section (under 19 international) game between Northern Ireland and Denmark. There was a vested interest as former Swindon scholar goalkeeper Conor Thompson was in the Irish squad so it was good to catch up with him. Despite dominating possession the Danes were beaten 2-0 by Ireland, once again showing our players that at all levels you don't always get what you deserve.
We watched the game from the hospitality area and were sat with Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill and former Ipswich manager Jim Magilton who is now Technical Director for Northern Ireland. Jim Magilton who had also been at our game against Everton commented on how well we had played against them which was nice to hear.
Yesterday we travelled to Clough, Ballymena to take on County Armagh in our second game. Games against the Irish county sides are always very difficult as they see you as a professional outfit as a scalp they want to take. They are also generally very physical sides and play in quite a direct style. Although we missed a guilt-edged chance early on, we did get off to a nervy start and took some time to settle and needed a good Connor Johns save from a free kick and some good defending from Sam Fletcher to prevent Armagh taking the lead.
Ten minutes before half time we did take the lead after a great run from our left back Jordan Morris who cut inside and bent a right footed shot into the far corner. Things got even better for us shortly after when left winger Tyreke Johnson was played in and he rifled the ball home to put us 2-0 up at the break.
In the second half County Armagh came at us strongly as we expected but stout defending by Macauley Dodson, Will Christopher, Sam Fletcher and Jordan Morris kept them at bay. When they did find a way in Connor Johns continued his fine form in goal with an outstanding save from a point blank header proving crucial with 15 minutes to go. Despite being under pressure, some excellent hold-up play by big target man Jack Richardson also helped us create chances of our own which we just failed to take.
Overall it was another good performance from the squad with Academy Manager Jeremy Newton and all of us as staff very pleased and we now move on to the next game against Dundalk.
Away from the games I am feeling the pressure in the camp on two fronts. I've known Academy Manager Jeremy Newton for many years having played in the same team as him in the non-league game. While here every morning we go for an early morning run on a route we have sorted out over the years. When we played together Jeremy was a speedy winger and me a goalkeeper so as you can imagine the milkmen and postmen of Coleraine have been witnessing me sweating and blowing just trying to keep up!
Also at breakfast yesterday our eagle-eyed Kit and Logistics manager Kevin Hall was quick to spot the fact that I dropped a bowl of cereal in the canteen which I thought I'd got away with, so my position as goalkeeping coach has been called into question by him!