Stand-in boss Andy Holdsworth praised the professionalism of his Covid-hit Wednesday squad, with special words for the clutch of youngsters called into action, after today’s FA Cup win at Exeter.
Following a week which saw caretaker boss Neil Thompson sidelined with coronavirus, along with assistants Lee Bullen, Steven Haslam and Nicky Weaver, other staff also contracting the virus and the training ground being closed, Holdsworth paid tribute to the all-round team effort – both on and off the field – to see us through to the fourth round of the competition,
We could also only name four players on the bench and Holdsworth said of the 2-0 victory: “The players gave everything. The professional performance they gave us was second to none.
“The lads have been extremely professional, cards have been dealt this week, you have to deal with it and we have.”
In terms of the disrupted preparations for the tie, including the absence of Thompson, he said: “The game plan has been the same for the last few weeks since Neil took charge. We all spoke as staff as to what we thought would benefit the team and we have stuck to that.
“We spoke about how we want to be on the front foot, how we want to play and how we want to defend.
“I spoke to Neil at half time today to give him an insight and he was saying the same things as me, so we stuck to the game plan and thankfully we got through.”
The squad for the match meant our back four boasted three youngsters in Liam Shaw, Ciaran Brennan and debutant Ryan Galvin while two more academy players – Declan Errat-Thompson and Isaac Rice – got their introduction to first-team action as late substitutes and young keeper Josh Render was also on the bench.
Shaw emerged as man-of-the-match as the game progressed and capped his outstanding performance with a tremendous run to carve out the second goal for Callum Paterson in the 90th minute.
Holdsworth, who was also full of praise for Brennan, said: “I was screaming at Liam to get back in defence. It’s the last minute, we’re 1-0 up and he’s doing little pirouettes in midfield – but that’s Liam Shaw.
“He can play up front, centre back, central midfield … he’s excited at the minute and I think he has excited everybody, especially the fans, which is pleasing to see and the main thing is he’s one of the homegrown lads who are coming through.”
Galvin came in at left back and hardly put a foot wrong, before suffering cramp and being subbed on 90 minutes.
Holdsworth added: “Ryan grew into the game as it went on. He’s been probably one of our star performers for the under-23s so deserved his chance today to show everyone what he can do.
“With kids you don’t know how they are going to react to being in a first team environment but every single one of them has been excellent.”