Over the weekend Bristol Rovers Academy hosted the qualification round of the Under-15’s Premier League Floodlight Cup.
The tournament has been brought into the Academy programme this season and provides all Academies the chance to participate in a knockout style tournament with a competitive element added to it.
Academy Manager Jonny Henderson told us "It is a fantastic opportunity to take our players outside of their comfort zone and expose them to competitive football, which is something as a programme we have identified that we would like to do more of.
"It is also a good opportunity for our players to test themselves against different opposition to what we normally play in our regular programme."
Rovers qualification group consisted of AFC Bournemouth, MK Dons & Queens Park Rangers.
The format was a round robin tournament with the games lasting 40 minutes and the winner of the group advancing to the next stage of the tournament.
Our opening game was against AFC Bournemouth, which being the first game was tight and cagey.
The boys had a few chances to win the game which we were unable to convert.
It was a slight disappointment not to have won the game, but having stressed to the boys not to lose the game, a 1-1 draw was a decent enough start with the boys probably having done enough to have won the game.
We went into our next fixture against QPR knowing we needed to convert our possession into goals to have a chance of progressing.
Although QPR had a lot of possession, the players displayed a great shape and patience out of possession to frustrate the opposition, and were clinical with their chances on the counter attack to win the game 2-1.
The boys came off frustrated having conceded a last minute goal, which in the tournament format could of been vital in terms of goal difference.
We went into the last game knowing we had to win the game and hope the other result went in our favour to stand a decent chance of winning the group.
MK Dons took the lead extremely early but the boys reacted in the best possible way, showing great resilience and character to go 2-1 up. MK Dons pegged us back, but again the boys responded well and dug deep to win the game 3-2.
When reacting to the Under-15’s performance, Academy Manager Jonny Henderson told us “Overall the boys displayed fantastic character, resilience and work ethic to win the group and qualify for the next stage of the tournament, making Bristol Rovers one of only 8 clubs outside of the Category 1 clubs across the whole country to reach the next stage which is a fantastic achievement in itself."
The next round sees us drawn in a group stage with Swansea City, Reading and Bristol City with games played on a home and away basis between now and the end of January.
As a group of staff, everyone at Bristol Rovers Academy we were very pleased that the boys adapted to the competitive element, and although weren't always at their free-flowing best, they did find ways to win the games they played.
The tournament provided excellent opportunities for us to observe the players when placed in pressure scenarios, and for the most part, they passed with flying colours and we look forward to following their progress in the next stage.