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McAvoy: "We can be proud of that performance"

Academy joint-manager reflects on a pulsating FA Youth Cup tie with Tottenham

18 December 2018

Millwall Academy joint-manager Larry McAvoy has expressed how proud he is of his U18 side after coming minutes away from a remarkable victory over Tottenham Hotspur at The Den on Monday night.

McAvoy and Chris Perry's team took the lead against U18 Premier League leaders Spurs through a stunning first-half strike from captain Billy Mitchell, before an injury-time J'Neil Bennett goal took the tie into extra time.

Rodel Richards tapped Tottenham into the lead four minutes into the additional period, with Millwall bowing out of the FA Youth Cup with pride following an heroic performance.

"It's a tough one for us to take, being two minutes from winning the game," McAvoy says.

"In terms of how the boys played, we can be proud of that performance against one of the best sides in Europe. I thought we were really good in and out of possession, we had a game plan which we stuck to, and we scored a brilliant goal.

"It was just a shame we couldn't get the second goal to kill the game with a couple of moments we had in the second half. Looking back at the equaliser we conceded, we could have done a lot better with that. That could have been down to concentration or fatigue. It was a big effort from the boys, and we just came up short in the end."

McAvoy states his delight with skipper Mitchell, whose wonder-strike had The Den on their feet, and claims the midfield man delivered with a Man of the Match performance.

"Billy doesn't score a lot of goals. He got one in the U23s this year and scored a penalty for us, but it is something he's been trying to work on - getting shots away and being more involved in the final third.

"It's just a brilliant goal from our captain, who led by example and was everywhere tonight. Without singling players out, he was outstanding and arguably our Man of the Match."

The coach admits he had concerns when the extra 30 minutes approached, with players on both sides suffering with cramp and tiredness, but acknowledges that The Lions had chances to salvage the game.

"I was a little bit concerned going into extra time, playing against players who use the ball so well. We were tired and had three or four players going down with cramp, which happens a lot on FA Youth Cup nights with a lot of nervous energy.

"I knew it would be tough - perhaps our decision-making could have been better with the second goal - but I thought we finished the game stronger in the second period of extra time.

"We threw everything at them. We had to take the risk of being open on the counter-attack, and we just couldn't quite get the equaliser in the end."

McAvoy finally states how pleased he was with the words of wisdom for his players following the game from Neil Harris.

"Tonight was brilliant with the first team manager coming down to watch. He doesn't always get a chance to come down with the first team playing on the same day, but it was great for him to see the boys live.

"He came into the dressing room after the game and he was really pleased - hopefully he'll see potential in some of these lads to eventually push towards the U23s and maybe one day his first team."

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