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Report: Blues Under-18s 5 QPR Under-18s 4

We’re the top scorers in the division but we are bottom three in terms of goals conceded. So there’s a balance to be had.

Mike Dodds

Blues Under-18s emerged as eventual winners over QPR after a nine-goal thriller which saw the lead change four times.

In a wide open encounter, Blues fell behind early in the game but fought back to lead 3-1 with just 35 minutes on the clock.

The visitors hit back with three goals of their own and with ten minutes to play, Mike Dodd’s side were heading for back-to-back home defeats for the first time this season.

But two goals from substitute Kieran Wakefield helped edge Blues in front for the final time in the game and record a fifth victory of the season.

The result also fired Blues to the top of the goalscoring charts but whilst the free-scoring youngsters are averaging three goals a game, Dodds was keen to stress that his players must not abandon their defensive responsibilities.

“Our attacking play was very good but our collective defending was poor at times,” he admitted. “It was more about our overall shape and structure to stop their counter-attacks.

“QPR are a side who clearly do a lot of work on countering and breaking with pace and we never really dealt with that or stopped them at source.

“The positive thing is we also look a real threat when we’re on the ball. We’re the top scorers in the division which is another plus but we are bottom three in terms of goals conceded.

“So there’s a balance to be had. We need to address what we do when the ball is turned over to the opposition.

“For me, it highlighted that there’s still work to be done in terms of our defensive transition because it was a bit of a basketball match at times.

“I don’t want to be too critical because six months ago, this group would have lost that game. Now, we have a competitive edge and there’s a good feeling amongst the players."

The victory puts Blues level on points with Wigan and Sheffield United at the top of the Professional Development League North.

Whilst it’s pleasing for Dodds to see Blues competing at the right end of the table, the Head of Professional Development, stressed the importance of installing a First Team mentality into his players.

He refers to the significance of conceding a goal and encouraging his players to spot danger, even when they’re in possession of the football.

“The result and performance gives me mixed emotions,” Dodds added. “When you’re working with young adults and teenagers, you want them to be creative and play expansive, free-flowing football - which they are.

“We can’t knock them for that but is the by-product of it, conceding goals as well?

“We’ve spoken about risk and reward with the players. At the moment we’ve very high risk but we’re getting high rewards.

“As coaches we’re saying, do we need to tone down that risk at certain moments in the game?

“As a Club we want to produce technically gifted players, we want to play attacking football but we also need to teach them the pressures of First Team football where you can’t afford to ship goals.

“The risk is far greater at First Team level than at Under-18s so we’ve got to try and replicate that pressure on the players.

“It’s so difficult to achieve the perfect balance and I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer as long as there’s clarity for the players.

“We have a little bit of a break now before the Barnsley game so we’ll work the lads behind closed doors and prepare for that game the best we can.”

Blues: Mayo, Fogarty, Djurovic, Dugmore (Wakefield 58), Browne, Craig, Patterson (Hall 58), Chang, Williams, Walker, Bellingham (James 67). Not used: Brooks, Nguepissi.

Goals: OG, Bellingham, Patterson, Wakefield (2)

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