Craig Liddle

Liddle: Friendly run-out useful

by Ashley Houghton

U18 coach on York, McGrath and Smith.

U18 coach Craig Liddle believes his young Black Cats will benefit immensely from the physical test they faced in their 2-2 draw with York City on Thursday.

Liddle’s side, who currently sit second in their Barclays U18 Premier League group, conceded late having led for long periods in the behind closed doors game at the Academy of Light.

But Liddle feels his boys will reap the rewards from a more physical encounter despite the late leveller.

“It was a different type of game to what we are used to with York being a Football League club,” Liddle explained.

“It’s a little bit more direct and a bit more physical than what we’re used to at Academy level but for me it’s a good learning curve for the boys to give them that type of challenge.

“I thought first-half we did quite well, without being brilliant. We dominated the game, went 2-0 up and they get the goal which made it 2-1 and a little bit of a precarious situation.

“In the second half York had the wind behind them and I think they deserved the draw at the end of the day.

“For me it wasn’t about the result, but more about the performance to keep the lads ticking over ahead of Stoke next week.”

Liddle fielded mainly first-year scholars and under-16’s for the behind closed doors friendly with the Minstermen and he was delighted with the way the youngsters applied themselves.

Jaison McGrath in particularly impressive, bagging two goals during his first 90 minutes of the campaign having been troubled by injuries since joining up with the Black Cats from Celtic at the start of the season.

“We had an under-15 on at the end, three under-16’s and the majority were first-years so it wasn’t probably our strongest side in terms of physicality but the lads adapted quite well and I think we can take a few positives from the game.

“Jaison’s had a lot of injury problems throughout the season and I think that’s possibly his first 90 minutes so we’re glad he’s got through that and a couple of goals will do his confidence the world of good.”

Liddle also reflected on Martin Smith’s performance in the under-21s’ win over Middlesbrough on Tuesday.

Smith scored the winner in that game and Liddle was pleased to see one of his under-18’s making an impact in Kevin Ball’s development squad.

“I saw the second half of the game as I was training with my lads as the game was going on but what he did, when I was watching, he did very well.

“He’s had a good run of form in the 18s and the pleasing thing is that he stepped up to the 21s and produced the goods at that level.”