O’s under-18s manager Richard Thomas hopes his side can maintain their high level of performances when making the short trip to Southend United in the first round of the FA Youth Cup this evening (7.30pm kick off).
Thomas’ charges are currently unbeaten this season, winning all 13 games to date ahead of tonight’s encounter, including a 5-3 success over Luton Town on Saturday to move 11 points clear in the Youth Alliance South East Division.
The O’s manager has been pleased with the progress the young O’s are making, but Thomas knows the FA Youth Cup throws up a completely different challenge.
“It is an occasion to look forward to and it is going to be a really tough game,” Thomas told leytonorient.com.
“The people at Southend are fantastic and I have a lot of time for them. It is going to be very difficult because every team gets up for the FA Youth Cup.
“It’s a local derby as well and we always have great games against them. They are never particularly one sided either and I expect it to be the same tonight.”
Despite the tough test that awaits the O’s under the lights at Roots Hall tonight, Thomas has every confidence that his side can progress to next round.
“We have a professional group who carry themselves very well,” he added.
“They are mature beyond their years and I feel they are mentally tough enough to deal with all those little differences they will experience tonight, like Southend’s home support and knowing the surroundings.
“If we can get anywhere near the levels they have been showing so far this season then we should be able to compete.”
The O’s come out on top 2-1 in the league fixture earlier this season thanks to a Sam Dalby double, and while they have built up some knowledge of the young Blues, Thomas knows the O’s have to be prepared for all eventualities.
“You only know how they have played against you really,” he remarked.
“We get to know their players over a couple of seasons and you have an idea of who their main threats are because you see who scores all the goals or you remember if they stand out when you play them.
“We have to get the players ready for all eventualities in terms of how they play and as a manager yourself you have to be on your toes if any adjustments are needed when you see things develop on the night.”
Going into tonight’s game, Thomas was buoyed by the O’s showing on Saturday against closest rivals Luton, having been pegged back from 3-0 in front to 3-3, before Dalby came off the bench to help the O’s pick up their 10th league win of the season.
“The first 20 minutes was as well as we have played all season. To be 3-0 up in that time is great regardless of who you are playing, but particularly against Luton who are always a strong side,” he said.
“We were disappointed to concede the three goals, especially in the manner in which they came about, but that happens.
“Conceding so early on in the second half could have given Luton the impetus to kick on but for then our boys to react the way they did, to go again and get back to where the levels were in the first half an hour was the most impressive thing.
“As a whole, against one of the best teams in the league, you cannot be anything but positive despite conceding three goals – which is the first time we have done all season. Those situations test your players.
“You need those tests, for teams to come back and then see if our boys have got in their locker mentally, technically, tactically and physically to go again. It is always positive to come out on top following a test like that because it just reinforces belief to the players and they develop more belief in what we are doing and what they are capable of.”
Tonight’s game is a 7.30pm kick-off at Roots Hall, with admission priced at £3 adults and £1 concessions.