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Kids need support, says Riley
7:00am Friday 6th December 2013 in Sport
STEVE Riley says it’s all too easy to underestimate the weight of demand being placed on his young side as AFC Totton fight for their lives in the Calor Southern Premier Division.
The Stags’ defensive naivety has been ruthlessly exposed in their last five games with 27 goals conceded in punishing defeats by Frome, Hitchin, Chesham, Hemel Hempstead and Biggleswade.
As a result, second-to-bottom Totton have lost ground on the sides above them and, heading into tomorrow’s trip to Redditch, they are seven points adrift of safety with three clubs to go down.
With basement boys Bashley getting their first league win at Bedford last weekend, the Stags are just two points clear of Riley’s old club.
They have also played two games more, and have easily the worst defensive record in the league with 62 goals conceded.
But the bulk of his young players had never played senior football before – let alone in non-League’s third tier – and Riley says that unless people have played the game, they can’t fully appreciate what his young players are going through.
“It’s hard work,” he said.
“I feel people’s frustration after our recent results, but it’s just where we are with these young boys at the moment.
“They’re still learning and when they lose concentration they get punished.
“But for lads of their age to keep up concentration levels for a full 90 minutes is tough and those who’ve never put on a pair of boots don’t understand that.
“It’s a big ask, it really is, and I feel for these young players.
“It’s no good getting frustrated, what the lads need is good, positive support.
“There’s a long road ahead and we know we’ve got youthful players, but the majority have done themselves justice.”
Totton’s young braves can at least go to Redditch with a win under their belts – albeit a hard-earned one against lower league Fleet Town in the Russell Cotes Cup.
Having twice rescued themselves with late goals to force extra time and penalties, the Stags edged the shootout 5-4 to book a quarter-final trip to Graham Rix’s AFC Portchester on January 7.
Redditch, 15th, have lost three of their last four league games.
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