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Clark praises character in National League U19 Alliance Cup win
Jack McGraghan
Author: Jack McGraghan

12th January 2022

Ben Clark praised his under-19 side’s character following progression to the last 16 of the National League U19 Alliance Cup on Wednesday.

Gateshead’s youngsters defeated Hednesford Town U19’s 3-1 on home soil to reach the next stage of the competition with Eddie Thomas and Rhys Mcleod both on the scoresheet.

“The lads did really well,” said Clark.

“We went 1-0 down and they showed good character to bounce back in the game – after we conceded we pretty much dominated the rest of the first half.

“We had lots of chances, looked dangerous every time we went forward and we managed to get in front from a set play and a good finish from Rhys, which is what he’s done all year for us.

“We looked fit, strong and dangerous on the break and scored from another set play, which is pleasing because we’ve been working on them.

“The lads responded really well to going behind and we looked a threat all afternoon.

“With the players we have in the team, we will score goals, but the lads at the back and the goalkeeper had a good day as well.”

The result sees Clark’s side return to form following a 4-4 draw at home to Morpeth Town on January 5 – a performance the manager described as ‘the worst we’ve played all season.’

“I wasn’t happy with the way we played last week,” Clark added.

“It was probably the worst we’d played all season and it wasn’t good enough, we have high standards and we got back to those today in a very good team performance.

“The lads had a good week of training, showed good character and they put that into the game today which is fantastic.”

Thomas grabbed another goal in what is proving to be a fine season for the young forward, who made the first-team bench in Monday’s 4-2 win at Bradford (Park Avenue) in the Vanarama National League North.

Eddie Thomas

“That’s what the programme is all about,” said Clark.

“It’s a massive privilege for the lads to come into the programme and have the opportunity to play for the football club.

“We had Connor Pani starting at Bradford which is fantastic, and to be fair I don’t see him as a youth player anymore, he’s a full on member of the first team squad.

“If you’re doing well and you get the chance to go and impress the management team like Eddie has done then that’s how quickly things can change.

“I got the phone call on Sunday about Eddie being involved and he’s deserved it.

“He’s gone out into the Northern League and is scoring goals at Crook Town and every time he’s gone over to train with the first team, the management like what they see.

“We’re delighted with the two lads that are involved, and it gives a carrot to the rest of the lads in the squad as to who can be next.

“The first team are doing fantastically well and I’m constantly talking about the lads to the management – Mike [Williamson] came and trained with the lads on Tuesday after not being involved on Monday which was fantastic.”

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