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RESERVE REFLECTIONS

Posted on 30 March 2006  - 12:00

Clive Allen can proudly reflect on an almost perfect season at reserve level after clinching the title this week.

Clive Allen can proudly reflect on an almost perfect season at reserve level after clinching the title this week.

Tuesday’s 3-0 win against Ipswich Town meant Arsenal could only draw level on points in the Barclays Reserve League South and the issue was put beyond doubt when Southampton hammered the Gunners 5-1 on Wednesday night.

Few could argue that the championship is going to the right home after Clive’s squad put together a run of 14 wins in 15 games to fly out of reach at the top of the table.

They’ve also scored the most goals (52), conceded the fewest (11) and have a plus-41 goal difference after winning 18 of 23 games so far.

As well as a first reserve title since 1994-95, the fundamentals of reserve team football have been served throughout - first teamers have played their part on their return from injury and when they’ve needed games and just as important, arguably even more so, Academy players have been handed their chance to impress at the next level.

Reflecting on the success at Spurs Lodge on Thursday, coach Clive wouldn’t say it was a perfect season - 'no season is perfect', he laughed - but nevertheless couldn’t hide his delight.

Here are his thoughts. "I honestly felt from day one when the lads came back in pre-season that they were ready for the challenge ahead.

"They all knew there would be fierce competition for places within the reserve group and the Academy because of what was happening at first team level.

"The lads took up the challenge from day one. I said to them that I wanted to win the league and I felt we had the chance to do it if things went well."They have worked and improved themselves individually and collectively they understood the nature of reserve team football in that the team can change from week to week.

"Senior players came in and set the right examples for the younger players. Opportunities came for the Academy boys and when they stepped up they did what was asked of them and showed they are capable as youngsters of going on to the next stage.

"We had the odd hiccup, not that many, but then we got the right response. It hurt when we got beaten and we always hit back. We closed it out with a fantastic run and we’ve learned to be defensively tight, played as a unit and I can’t remember many games where we haven’t created chances.

"You always want to win convincingly and we did that on occasions but we won in all ways – a number of games were tight as well and that’s all part of the learning curve.

"It was all about becoming winners and that’s the biggest experience. I’m a big believer that winning is very important and understanding how to win because at the top level you need to be a winner to be successful. The lads have had a taste of that in their development and that will stand them in good stead for the future.

"Hopefully they will now grasp what is needed to go and win a championship, how to win when games are ugly, how to win when games are easier and you make sure you kill teams off – we’ve shown all the fundamentals you need in the reserve team this season."

Our reserves have three games left this season - Crystal Palace at Bromley FC on Monday, Coventry at home on April 10 and then Coventry away on April 25 - before a one-off final against the Northern winners of the Barclays Reserve League.

The Northern section has yet to be decided with Manchester United, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough fighting it out.

As soon as we have details of the final we will publish them on this website.