Rioch says Latics have benefitted from early entry into the FA Youth Cup.
- Latics v Stevenage tonight, 7.00pm at Robin Park Arena.
- Rioch praises performances and maturity in the FA Youth Cup so far.
- Latics still in all three cup competitions this season.
“We have been delighted with the FA Youth Cup run we have been on,” began Rioch.
“The games themselves throw up something different for the players in the sense that we play different teams from our league programme.
“The words ‘The FA Youth Cup’ make the games massive for the young players; some of them freeze, some of them excel and, as a whole, we’ve been really pleased with the reaction and the performances.
“With a bit of luck, we’ll hopefully get through and set up a tie with West Ham United or Derby County in the fourth round.”
On the run so far, and previous experiences in the competition, Rioch continued:
“I’m also pleased because we have managed to negotiate the early round ties when it is not something we are used to; the Cup draw follows the first team pattern so, in previous years, we’ve gone in at the third round like the first team.
“What that has meant for us is that we have tended to go to some nice stadiums and play, but the whole experience has always been a bit daunting and the lads haven’t had chance to enjoy the FA Youth Cup.
“We went to Leicester City last year at the King Power Stadium under the lights and lost to an own goal in a very even game. Those lads didn’t get that experience again and that chance to manage their nerves better, so the fact we have come in and had a go from the first round has been really beneficial to the lads – it is a much better experience.”
Watch the action from the first round against York City.
The FA Youth Cup is one of three knockout competitions Latics are still competing in, with a Football League Youth Alliance fourth round tie with Shrewsbury Town coming up in January, as well as the second round of the Lancashire FA Youth Cup against Oldham Athletic.
Speaking about the season so far, Rioch added:
“We are in the northern semi-final of the Category Three Cup, we got knocked out in the northern final last year by Oldham so we are looking to go one-better in that.
“We’re also in the second round of the Lancashire FA Cup and we have just gone top of the table so we are very pleased. The boys are performing well, that is the first thing, but they’re also getting results, and that consistency in the team has really pleased me.
“The players are really maturing well at such a young age, they’ve got an incredible desire to win as well and they are putting demands on themselves even more so than we are as staff, they’re really challenging themselves in terms of their goals for this season.
“You have to have that inner drive to go to the next level of the game.”
WATCH OR FOLLOW TONIGHT'S GAME LIVE!
Admission for the FA Youth Cup third round clash with Stevenage is £5.00 for adults and £3.00 for concessions, with kick off at 7.00pm over at Robin Park Arena, next to the DW Stadium.
You can also follow the game live on your desktop, tablet or mobile, with minute-by-minute text commentary on Latics Wall, and key incident updates on Twitter.
To get more from the game read our big match preview by [clicking here].