Beale says Blues Under-23s have their eyes on the prize

Albania Under-21 international Geraldo Bajrami
Albania Under-21 international Geraldo Bajrami

Blues Under-23s will give everything they have got to reach the PDL Final this evening.

They travel to Portman Road to take on Ipswich Town Under-23s in the Play-Off Semi-Finals (7pm).

The Tractor Boys go into the tie as favourites having won the PDL South title – and also defeating Blues 2-0 at home in September in their only other meeting this season.

Leeds United Under-23s wait in the Final after their dramatic 3-2 extra-time victory over Coventry City Under-23s at Elland Road in last night’s other Semi-Final.

“What we have said to the players is that we are in the final four and we want to be the numbers ones now,” commented Senior Professional Development Coach Richard Beale.

“The lads have trained really well, they’re in the good spirits and we will go down there and give it a good go.”

Will their previous meeting be significant?

“I don’t think so,” said Beale. “Our players are confident. We had a tough time down there earlier in the season but they had a very strong, experienced side out.

“Listen, whoever they put out it doesn’t matter. The lads have had some good games recently, they are training really well as I’ve said, so we go there and look forward to playing in the stadium and playing to their best of their abilities.”

Blues, who finished runners-up to Leeds in the PDL North, remain without Under-23s mainstays Olly McCoy and Kyle McFarlane due to injury.

But they have Geraldo Bajrami and Josh Andrews available to join the squad again after their injury lay-offs and also Jude Bellingham, who has been away on international duty with England Under-16s at the Montaigu Tournament in France.

Beale said the experience of chasing for the league title itself this season and tonight’s Semi-Final will stand the plyers in good stead.

“Those are the sides of development that sometimes get overlooked.

“People just look at the game. Often the biggest difference between under-23 players and first team players is having to do it week in, week out and be consistent.

“The young players who can perform on a bigger stage are invariably the ones who go on and force their way into the team, because they have shown they can handle that pressure and they have shown they can perform consistently well.

“So, yes, these pressure games that are knock-out, semi-finals, it’s fantastic for their development.”

Blues (from): Jeacock, Bradley-Hurst, Hutton, Burke, Stirk, Bajrami, Forrest, Redmond, Baker, O’Keeffe, Boyd-Munce, Hurst, George, Bellingham, Bailey, Andrews.