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NextGen a plus for Academy

John McDermott took heart from seeing plenty of heart in our Academy’s performance against Sporting Clube de Portugal as their NextGen Series adventure finally ended at the quarter-final stage on Wednesday night.

Highly-rated Sporting won 5-3 in extra time after our lads rescued a seemingly-impossible situation when they trailed 3-1 with only 10 minutes remaining in testing conditions at Leyton Orient.

Laste Dombaxe made it 3-2 from the penalty spot in the 81st minute before Roman Michael-Percil grabbed an equaliser in the last seconds of six minutes added time.

Unfortunately, Lisbon-based Sporting regained the lead six minutes into extra time and then hammered home the final nail when Atud Fokobo hit an incredible volley from fully 45 yards.

Earlier, Nathan Oduwa struck a sweet equaliser after Sporting opened the scoring, before the Portuguese side stretched their advantage to 3-1 in the second half.

“We’ve taken a lot out of this game and a lot out of the tournament as a whole,” said John, our Academy Manager.

“This is the third time we’ve played Sporting so we knew going into the game how good they are as an Academy and how talented their players are.

“We gave them a good game and showed a lot of character and players have come out of it with a lot of credit. Fair play to Sporting as well, they are tough opponents and good luck to them for the semi-finals.”

Lads celebrate our late leveller against Sporting

There have been plenty of highlights in the NextGen – not least away victories at Barcelona and PSG in the last 16, where the lads held their nerve to win on penalties. Barca at home, played at White Hart Lane, also attracted 9,000 fans.

John added: “It’s a fantastic tournament, top-class opposition and our players need this calibre of opposition.

“To get the chance to play against German, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Belgian opposition, for those who go on and hopefully play for the first team, it’s fantastic experience for them. The NextGen has certainly been a Category A set of fixtures within our calendar this season.”