ACADEMY goalkeeping coach Steve Hale reports on the youth team's exploits at the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland...
The Swindon Town Milk Cup squad for 2013 landed in Coleraine, Northern Ireland on Saturday after four weeks of preparation. The squad went through two more sessions on Saturday and Sunday before the traditional parade through the streets of all competing teams to the show-ground. The parade is a fantastic occasion always well supported by the people of Northern Ireland with thousands lining the streets welcoming the opening of the tournament.
The final light training session on Monday morning led by Academy Manager Jeremy Newton was just a final run through of team shape and set pieces in readiness for the first game against Everton. Everton are one of the top academies in England spending a minimum of £2.3 million a year to operate as they are a Category One status Academy, so a very difficult game for the lads was expected.
We got off to a fantastic start with Aidan Compton unlucky not to open the scoring inside five minutes. Everton were not allowed to settle as our lads went about their work in determined fashion and we continued to dominate the half. Everton's goalkeeper made a great save to deny Jordan Young from 30 yards as the pressure was building. However, against the run of play with just 30 seconds left of the half, Everton broke and despite a great initial save from Conor Johns the rebound was tucked away to leave us all disappointed but encouraged by a good first half display.
In the second half, Everton came out of the blocks looking to show off their Premier League status. Our lads defended resolutely with Johns making three superb saves but we also created our own chances which we again couldn't quite convert. In the last minute it looked like we had got the equaliser we thoroughly deserved but first Jabari Hylton's shot at the back post came off the woodwork back to him, only for him to then be denied once again this time by an outstanding save from the Everton goalkeeper to seal our 1-0 defeat.
It's fair to say all the players and staff were left gutted as this was a superb performance from our squad. It was a lesson to our players that you don't always get what you deserve in football but the coaching staff were proud of the performance the squad had delivered against top opposition.
Away from the football itself, Club Stalwart Roger Reeves who has attended 12 of the last 17 years of which Swindon have competed in the tournament continued to prove what a legend he is in these parts. Once again throughout the parade he was greeted like a national hero by people along the route! He also continues to make the most of the generous hospitality we receive each year with his waistline rapidly expanding!