Orient under-18s manager Richard Thomas is wary of the threat Poole Town will pose tonight in the FA Youth Cup as the O’s bid to secure a Third Round contest at Premier League champions Leicester City.
Thomas’ side progressed to the Second Round earlier this month after a 6-0 demolition of local rivals Southend United.
Since then, the O’s drew 1-1 at Cambridge United in the league, before seeing last weekend’s game with Gillingham postponed, but continue to set the pace in Youth Alliance South East Division.
While pleased with their development, Thomas knows they cannot underestimate the non-league hosts tonight.
“Our boys are in buoyant mood and they are looking forward to it,” he told leytonorient.com.
“They have the maturity to know it will be tough. Poole have been performing well from what we have seen and they have a lot of attacking threat.
“We will treat the game the same as any league game and we expect it to be as tough as any game we’ve played.”
Poole are managed by former professional Marcus Browning, so the O’s Academy Manager knows they will be well prepared for the test Orient will pose.
“You only have to look at Poole as a club – they are a decent club doing very well in their division,” he added.
“Managed by an ex-professional in Marcus Browning means he will have brought all the same standards that he spent his entire career working to, to his group.
“Poole are going to be a very well-prepared side that play good football, so I am expecting a very difficult contest away from home.
“It will be a long day which can have its impact on any player so we have to contain our excitement and energy until the whistle goes.
“No doubt Marcus will have Poole as organised as any team we face, given his background in the game. It will be another great challenge for the lads and we hope they gain a lot from it and develop in some way.”
The winners of tonight’s encounter will make the trip to Premier League champions Leicester City and while there is a big prize on the line for both sides, Thomas is keen for his side to remain level headed and focused on the job in hand.
“Knowing your potential Third Round opponents can mean things go one of two ways,” he remarked.
“The lads can lose focus on this game, and focus on the next one too soon meaning they come unstuck, or it can give them real motivation to focus on this game and try to get through because the prize at the other end is to play the Premier League champions.
“I’m sure Marcus is saying the exact same thing to his players. It is a question of how many can focus on the night, but it is definitely an issue we will have to contend with, it’s human nature.”
A number of Thomas’ side have enjoyed recent first team exposure, while some have also experienced travelling as part of the senior squad for away fixtures – something which he hopes bodes well for his side.
“A few of our players have spent time with the first team for away games and I hope that helps in the sense they have been around a more senior group and know how to carry themselves around hotels, little things like that,” said Thomas.
“Until you have done it and experienced it a few times you don’t really know what you are going to do for four hours in a hotel – how do you fall asleep in the afternoon when you never normally do that?
“It’s not straightforward, especially when you have that energy and excitement as all young players do. Senior professionals can struggle with that at times so we have to expect a few to find it difficult.
“They are things we have to contend with, but the long distances trips recently for the boys who have been able to travel with the first team, regardless of their involvement, will hopefully stand us in good stead.
“A number went to Brighton’s stadium last week, which is a great facility and you are not going to find too many better in your career. Getting under the lights in front of people in a big arena should serve them well for going to play under lights in a stadium, which they don’t get often enough.
“One or two have been out on loan recently at clubs similar to Poole so should know it well in that sense, but you hope that those experiences in recent times serves us well.”
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