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Nugent: "It could have been 5-5"

Under 23 manager reflects on defeat at Crystal Palace

25 November 2019

Kevin Nugent has given his analysis of Millwall Under 23s' 4-2 defeat at Crystal Palace on Monday afternoon, claiming his side must learn from the downfalls in the game and build on the positives.

Isaac 'Tanto' Olaofe's brace was the main shining light for Nugent's young Lions at Copers Cope, with Shaun Derry's strong Palace outfit coming out on top through a Brandon Pierrick hat-trick and Oliver Tanner's opener.

Ryan Sandford denied Connor Wickham from the penalty spot in the lead-up to the second of Pierrick's goals, with Nugent giving an honest assessment of an open encounter in Beckenham.

"I'm disappointed with the overall performance, albeit with patches where we looked okay," the U23 boss says.

"The game was open and we could have taken more of our chances - it could have finished 5-5. We had to change our shape here with the personnel we had, which didn't work in the first 20 minutes so we changed things.

"We dealt with Palace okay at times, but the change in shape maybe affected us performance-wise and the goals were disappointing to concede."

The hosts fielded a mix of youth and experience for the Professional Development League contest, in a starting XI which included Wickham, Mamadou Sakho and Jairo Riedewald - and Nugent insists it is important for his young starlets to quickly adapt to facing opponents of such stature.

"Palace had a strong side out there. As I say, we dealt with them well in certain situations, but we have to be able to deal consistently with these players to be at the level these lads want to be at.

"It was a positive learning curve for them, especially up against Connor Wickham, who at times caused us some real problems.

"We will learn from the negatives and try to build on the positives. We have been beaten in a local derby, but we've had some pats on the back and we will look to keep improving, because the young lads showed promise in spells today."

Nugent's hand was forced prior to the game in terms of team selection, with a number of his young players heavily involved with Gary Rowett's first team sessions in the past week or two - James Brown and Billy Mitchell even earning places on the bench in Saturday's win at Swansea City. The lads' progress is something the U23 manager is of course very happy with, along with the other plus points he explains.

"Our options were limited today for positive reasons, in that we've had three players involved with the first team which is what we want. We're really pleased for those boys.

"We're well pleased for Tanto [Olaofe] with his two goals. That's a real positive for him after so long out on the sidelines with injury.

"The lads kept going. George [Alexander] ran and ran up there, Dan Moss held his own in the middle of the park which was a different position for him, as did Jesse Debrah who we had to slot wider into right-back."

The Lions still sit fourth in the Southern section of the League, chasing the top two promotion places by six points.

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