Boss Jon Brady declared himself ‘extremely proud’ of his Cobblers Under-18s team after they were narrowly beaten by Arsenal in the FA Youth Cup third round.
Town’s youngsters were beaten 2-0 at Boreham Wood’s Meadows Park ground thanks to a goal in each half, with the first scored by Folarin Balogun and the second an overhit cross from Zak Swanson.
The Premier League side’s youngsters were branded ‘one of the best youth teams in the world’ by Brady prior to kick-off, and he was delighted with how his Cobblers players acquitted themselves against such quality opposition.
“I am extremely proud of the team, and I thought it was a very good performance, very disciplined, and we had one or two chances,” said the former Brackley Town boss.
“I think we denied them many chances, and I can’t really remember too many clear-cut ones they had, and they have averaged 3.6 goals scored per game this season.
“Tonight we only conceded two, they didn’t have many other chances, and there was a period at 1-0 when we were right in the game and had some opportunities.
It was a great performance all round from the boys, and they can take huge confidence from thisCobblers Under-18s boss Jon Brady
“We had the ascendancy at that time and were getting in behind their full-backs, which gave us the opportunity for cutbacks and crosses, and we had a little header that flashed past goal.
“But look, it was a great performance all round from the boys, and they can take huge confidence from this.”
Brady had urged his players to have no fear as they took on the Gunners, and his players responded to that as they more than matched their hosts for long spells in the game.
And the Town boss believes many of his players are more than capable of mixing in such quality company on a regular basis.
“It was a great experience,” Brady told ntfc.co.uk. “And the really good thing for them is that we believe they will get other opportunities to play against teams like that.
“A lot of those boys in there, in my opinion, will go on and have good careers and they proved that and put themselves in the spotlight tonight.
“We are talking about an Arsenal team that has lost in the final for the past two years, and they are expected to possibly go on and get to the final again this season.
“That was our final tonight, and we can hold our heads up high.”
The Cobblers U18s have enjoyed a fantastic season.
The defeat to Arsenal was only their second of the season, and on Saturday they secured the EFL Youth Alliance South East Division title as closest rivals Stevenage lost to Cambridge United.
Town have 44 points from 17 games with three games to play and can’t be caught.
Brady is delighted with their efforts, and says some of the group will now hopefully challenge for a first team spot with the Cobblers, or alternatively be sent out on loan.
“The boys can be immensely proud of what they have done this season,” said the youth team boss.
“They are a very good group, they don’t get too excited or down about what they do, and altogether, the staff and everyone, have done a great job on driving these boys forward, and they drive themselves forward.
“Now some of them can go on and potentially knock on the door of our first team, or some could go out on loan and start to play senior football which is quite important.”
The youth team are back in league action on Saturday when they travel to Peterborough United (ko 11am).