Needham Market had seven academy graduates on the field during Saturday’s 2-0 home win over Dorking Wanderers, as their development programme bears fruit.
Manager Richard Wilkins said it was ‘the perfect opportunity’ to give academy players some first-team minutes as the Marketmen have all but secured another season in the Bostik League Premier Division.
They are in 18th place and 14 points clear of the bottom with just five games remaining after Saturday’s result, despite Wilkins having three ‘very young’ players on the pitch.
And, after Jamie Griffiths put them ahead from a penalty after 87 minutes, it was one of those players, debutant Tyler Rose, who sealed the win with a goal in injury time
He said: “It’s all very positive at the club at the moment, especially after Saturday.
“The academy is coming in to its own now and producing players in need of first-team minutes.
“These players have no fear, they just go out there and play their best and, for the short term, they are brilliant.
“It was great to see Tyler score, really pleasing.
“He’s a hard working player and he’s never missed a session in his time with the academy so it was great to see him rewarded with a goal.
“We played seven former academy players on Saturday, and an eighth on the bench, and that’s just great for Needham, the system is working.
“We’ve had a few issues with player availability this season and two or three home-grown players would be very beneficial.
“It helps make Needham more sustainable and cost effective too.
“If everyone is fit it can be hard to give the young players minutes but the end of the season is the perfect time, especially when you’re in the place we are.
“Of course it’s nice to finish as high as you can but you have to also balance that with giving our youngsters opportunities and looking ahead to next season.
“But, although it took us a while to find our goals, we put in some really good performances and deserved the win.
“We dominated the final 20 minutes and sealed a good afternoon with the second goal with minutes to go, it was very pleasing.”
He said there were a number of players they were keen to give further first-team action to at the end of the season, particularly George Jackson and defender James Carragher.
He would consider if tomorrow’s away trip to Worthing (3pm) would be the right time, a game he expects will be ‘quite tough’ against a side who have been on a good run.
“I think Dan Morphew will be back and I’m hoping Luke Ingram will be on the bench too,” Wilkins said.
“So we will have two or three first-team players back. And it’s a good time for it, as Worthing will be quite tough, they have picked up a lot since the first half of the season.
“They are a very good team and we will need to be on form.But I feel like luck is more on our side now than earlier in the season so I’m feeling good.”