U23 Report & Reaction: Watford 0-3 Leeds United
By Kevin Affleck
Hayden Mullins believes the performances of Jayden Bennetts have been a real shining light in a tough period for the Under-23 side.
Bennetts was the brightest spark in an otherwise tough afternoon for Mullins’ side against Leeds United, showing up well as a false No. 9 in what was his third game in five days. The 17-year-old, who is the brother of Borussia Mönchengladbach forward Keanan Bennetts, played 120 minutes against Leicester City in the FA Youth Cup win, played the full 90 two days later against Millwall – where the Hornets played for 50 minutes with ten men – and then racked up another 90 against a Leeds side who had plenty of Championship and youth international experience.
“Jayden has done really well again,” said Mullins after the 3-0 defeat. “I see him in training every day but you only really learn about them in games and I think he’s one who has handled it well and come to the fore.
“Jayden is good when he gets the ball at his feet in good areas as he can play some lovely passes. He can also link the play well. We played him higher today and he looked after the ball well. He’s doing really well.”
Bennetts would have learnt plenty after playing against Dutch youth international defender Pascal Struijk. The former Ajax man got the second goal while the excellent Izzy Brown, on loan from Chelsea, and sub Kun Mihaylov got the others. It was the team’s third straight defeat.
“They are a good side and this is a massive learning period for us,” said Mullins. “We haven’t got a team or pros – we’ve got a team of scholars and trialists. We’ve have got a young side and they have come up against some good players. Tom Leighton has come up against Izzy Brown, the right back [Jamie Shackleton] and the no. 10 [Mateusz Bogusz] have been involved with the first team. It’s so good for our lads and you can often get bogged down by the result and that clouds your judgement, but the positives are we’ve had someone like Imaad Sankoh, a first year scholar, getting so much game time against. He’ll learn so much from this.”
The Under-23 side usually contains the backbone of the Under-18 side, but Mullins and Under-18 Coach Tom Hart have been conscious not to overload the players who have reached the semi-final of the FA Youth Cup. Dan Phillips, for example, has been left out of the last two Under-23 games.
“We have to look after them,” said Mullins. “We played extra-time on Wednesday and then we had a game on Friday and that was just too soon for some of them. We had to put a few on the bench just to make up the numbers. We are trying to get them through and the focus for that group is obviously the semi-final of the Youth Cup. Dan Phillips would definitely have been involved today if he was right, but he’s got a bit of a knock. Cassidy has also got a knock.”
Mullins, Hart and Graham Stack will head to Gigg Lane on Wednesday to see who Watford will meet out of Bury and Liverpool in the semi-final later this month.
“We are going to go and have a little watch,” said Mullins. “Hopefully we can see a few things we can take away. Stacky and Harty have been brilliant with the FA Youth Cup. They are both really thorough and I’ll just be there to support them.”
HORNETS | Parker (GK), Leighton, Mukena, Trialist, Hudson; Sankoh, Trialist (Cassidy 73), Trialist (Maclean 79); Adebiyi, Cassidy, Trialist (Yamfam 67). Subs not used: Baptiste (GK), Tricker.