PROUD Head Development Squad Coach Graeme Murty today heaped praise on his young guns who ground out an impressive 3-2 win at St Mirren yesterday.
Trailing 2-0 at half-time, a Max Ashmore penalty and strikes apiece from Andy Dallas and Serge Atakayi turned the clash on its head at the Paisley 2021 Stadium.
And Murty – who fielded a number of under-17 players and two under-16 players in Billy Gilmour and Danny Finlayson – was thrilled with their efforts.
He explained: “It’s great for them and goes to show again, if we have gaps and we have injuries, or even if you’re doing really, really well then we’ll put you in because we need to see the next level and continue that stretch where you are doing OK, but can you step up? I thought they all did really well yesterday – Mikey Hewitt for his first appearance as an under-17 handled it really well, and then you throw in Danny Finlayson as an under-16 centre-back, and he looked really assured.
“We talked to him about being confident and being composed, and I was really relaxed whenever the ball went in his area which is testament to him.”
Despite trailing at the interval, Murty felt his men were still playing relatively well, and revealed only a few minor tweaks were needed in order to spur them on to victory.
He continued: “My message was we weren’t doing that badly, and we just had to sharpen a few things up. We thought in the middle third of the pitch we were OK, but we had to do better at both ends.
“And that proved a point as I thought in the second half we were really resilient in our defensive third, and in the final third and the attacking third, we looked a lot more incisive and looked to carry much more of a threat.”
The result was the perfect response to losing the Youth Cup final to Celtic last Wednesday at Hampden, and with one more game to come against Motherwell at Ibrox on Thursday, Murty revealed his boys are determined to finish the season on something of a high.
The former Scotland international added: “The boys were actually talking about where they want to finish in the league. I’m really pleased with the result and really pleased with the response, and the boys are already looking towards the next one as they want to finish as high as they possibly can, which is great for me.
“I have to say though, all of the age groups have responded really well. We get a lot of plaudits as the 20s have done OK and got to the Youth Cup Final, but the work Billy Kirkwood and Malky Thomson have done with the under-17s has been shown by how many of them step up to under-20s on a regular basis.
“So they deserve a massive pat on the back for that, and the young players who do that have shown a great deal of resilience to actually cope with the level we are asking them to play at.”