U21 coach on Chelsea, injuries and first-team chances.
Kevin Ball says his U21 side had opportunities to come away with at least a share of the spoils as they slipped to a narrow defeat against Chelsea yesterday.
The visitors prevailed by a single goal at the Academy of Light, and the strike was enough despite Sunderland generating a number of opportunities.
In the first 30 seconds I could have kicked them up the backside when we put ourselves under pressure, but then the players got a foothold in the game and did well
- Ball on performance
Ryan Noble came close on a couple of occasions, while Mikael Mandron almost rescued a point when he nodded just off-target late on.
“I’m disappointed because I think the players worked tremendously hard,” Ball said afterwards.
“It’s a cliché in football to say you deserved something from the game, but they did.
“In the first 30 seconds I could have kicked them up the backside when we put ourselves under pressure, but then the players got a foothold in the game and did well.
“The goal Chelsea scored I felt was poor; we should have done better with it.
“We had numerous opportunities to score but unfortunately it’s at a time where we’re in a vein of not being able to take our chances.”
Ball has called up a number of younger players into his squad having been hit hard by injuries.
Louis Laing and John Egan have spent the bulk of the campaign on the sidelines alongside the likes of long-term injury victim Jordan Watson.
“You have to give credit to the players that have come into the team; they’ve worked very, very hard,” Ball added.
“Tommy McNamee played 90 minutes for the U18s on Saturday but had to come in, [while] Martin Smith is a first-year.
“Billy Knott came back up and it was an opportunity for him to show the manager what he could do after playing 90 minutes on Saturday.
“Like I say, the result is a little disappointing but could I be disappointed with the performance? Absolutely not.
Alex Gorrin broke his nose at Aston Villa last week and he’ll be back shortly, but other players like Connor [Oliver], Laingy [Louis Laing], John Egan, Lynchy [Craig Lynch] and [Jordan] Watson [are all out]."
It was a great opportunity for them and it’s one that now you hope they see it and think ‘if I want to get there, what have I got to do?’
- Ball on Mandron and Laidler
Meanwhile Ball was delighted to see youngsters Mikael Mandron and Jordan Laidler have the opportunity to travel with the first-team squad for last weekend’s game at Chelsea.
Mandron, a second-year scholar, and first-year pro Laidler were both unused substitutes during Paolo Di Canio’s first game in charge.
And Ball says the pair should use the taste of first-team life as a motivational tool to make further progress.
“Mika nearly got on and he was absolutely buzzing,” Ball said.
"It was a nice opportunity [to be with the first team]; one that you want them to go away and savour.
“You also want them to go away and say they want more than this; they’re both quite young.
“It was a great opportunity for them and it’s one that now you hope they see it and think ‘if I want to get there, what have I got to do?’
“It’s all about hard work, attitude and applying your ability and if they do that they might get another opportunity.”