Faith in youth paying off for Ely as they continue title challenge

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Believing in young talent is paying dividends for Ely City — as Saturday’s 5-1 thrashing dished out at promotion rivals Halstead Town demonstrated.

The Robins chalked up their third consecutive win at the weekend to move up to second in the Thurlow Nunn League First Division.

And for Ely manager Brady Stone it was the perfect result against a team who will be challenging his side for a top three spot this season.

“I was really delighted because we went into the game without four first-team players available,” he said.

“We had 16-year-old Joe Brannan playing at right-back and 17-year-old Lewis Hook in centre midfield, and they were two of our best players.

“Matt Ashman came on and made his debut and he’s another one playing in the under-18s.

“I want to give young players a chance. We’re a club who haven’t got a lot of money, so we have to put our eggs in one basket with the youth team.

“We had five of the under-18s play for the reserves on Saturday. It meant we had eight in total from the youth team playing for our senior sides at the weekend, which puts it into perspective.”

After Ricky Spriggs gave Halstead an early lead at Rosemary Lane on Saturday, braces from Sam Goodge and Craig Neal, along with a goal from top goalscorer Alex Theobald sealed an emphatic 5-1 victory for the Robins.

“We played to the conditions,” the Ely boss said. “It was wet and windy. We couldn’t really play football.

“We played with a high tempo and tried to play in their half and their final third.

“I didn’t expect us to get the result we did but we’ll definitely take it.”

The win kept up Ely’s winning run since losing to runaway leaders Wivenhoe Town, with the triumph at Halstead following on from home victories over Braintree Town Reserves and Leiston Reserves.

“We’ve scored 15 goals in our last three games and we’re now up to second in the league,” Stone said. “The boys are enjoying it and for us all we want to do is keep it going.

“The top five is our aim for this season. There’s no pressure on the boys to finish in the top three, we just want to keep enjoying our football.”

Ahead of hosting Debenham LC on Saturday (3pm), the Robins were due to visit higher league Cambridge City in the Cambridgeshire Invitation Cup last night.

Stone’s side received a walkover in the first round last month against Great Shelford, with last season’s winners set to be their next opponents in the quarter-finals yesterday.

Ely welcome back Jamie Alsop, Liam Griffin and Matthew Simpson to the squad this weekend, with the trio having all been unavailable for the win at Halstead.

The Robins host Needham Market Reserves in the First Division Knockout Cup first round on Tuesday (7.45pm).