Under-18s coach on tonight's FA Youth Cup tie
Town youth boss Paul Driver says tonight’s FA Youth Cup tie at Notts County is the toughest test his side have faced in 30 matches.
The Hatters youngsters are protecting a 29-match unbeaten run, a sequence which stretches back to eight games last season.
And although hosts Notts County play at the same level of the Youth pyramid as the Town, Driver is wary of the threat the Magpies will pose.
“We’ve done our homework but with all FA Youth Cup ties you are always going into the unknown a little,” said Driver, whose class of 2014/15 are five points clear at the top of the Youth Alliance’s south east section.
“Without a doubt it’s the biggest and most difficult game we’ve faced, but we’ll go into the game confident knowing we’re up against an academy side ranked as the same as us.
“But you never know – we watched Colchester before our first round tie and they fielded four or five players that we’d not seen before as they had been playing for their Under-21s team.
“It’s difficult knowing what to fully expect but we’ve had the experience of playing and beating a higher-ranked academy in Colchester and we’re used to playing away so nothing should faze us.”
No Town youth team has reached the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup since 2006/07.
And with either the Hatters or Notts County guaranteed to meet another Category 3 academy outfit in the next round there’s big incentive for victory at Meadow Lane.
“We know and the other three clubs know, there’s an opportunity to go on and reach the fifth round,” explained Driver. “Every season you set the third round as a benchmark, and you also set the League Cup semis and a top two or three place in the League as targets. At the moment we’re on course to exceed that.
“However, the boys know that things can change quickly: lose two or three games and your season can soon alter. The players know how long they’ve gone unbeaten and want to continue the run.
“There is no doubt this is our toughest game – especially considering how much is at stake.”
Driver has virtually a fully-fit squad to pick from with only striker Geo Craig unavailable.
And the coach will also be able to select professionals Frankie Musonda and James Justin after the pair were involved in Saturday’s first team game against Northampton with centre-half Musonda an unused substitute.
“It was excellent to see them both part of the squad,” said Driver. “It was great for Frankie in particular – he’s been tremendous for us and hopefully we can see more involved for him in the weeks to come.”