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Beard ready to face one of the best

Mark Beard cannot wait to see his side test themselves against one of the top academy teams in the country when they face Arsenal in an FA Youth Cup fifth round tie at Meadow Park tonight.

By James Hilsum • 06 February 2020

By Paul Hazlewood
Albion under-18 coach Mark Beard.

The under-18s have successfully navigated their way past Leicester City and Derby County respectively, and Beard is looking forward to taking a strong squad up to Borehamwood to face the Gunners.

He said, “Thursday night’s game is a great opportunity for us to play against a quality attacking Arsenal team, and it should be very exciting.

“The likes of Teddy Jenks, Haydon Roberts and Jack Spong should all be involved, and I know Arsenal will have a number of their under-23 players involved too.

“They are one of the biggest and best academies in the country, so I’ve got that on my mind and will stress to the boys not to get carried away.

“But we can go into the match with confidence. We’re in a good place at the moment, and we just want to go out there and enjoy it while trying to get through to the next round.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Goalscorer Jack Leahy in action during the last round.

A win for Albion will see them progress to the sixth round, which will match the club’s best performance in the competition, and the under-18 coach says that can only serve as added motivation to his squad.

“We set the lads targets at the start of the season, one was to finish fourth this season, which was higher than the fifth-place finish we achieved last year.

“We also wanted to get out of the Premier League Cup group stages, which we also achieved, and also wanted to get to the quarter-finals of this competition too.

“They’ve met every target we’ve set them, and hopefully they can do it again.”

05:25

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U18 Highlights Derby 1 Albion 2

The last time the two sides met the Seagulls triumphed 6-3 in a nine-goal thriller at Arsenal's Shenley Training Centre, but Beard is refusing to be complacent ahead of what should be a stern test.

“We can take away the positives from it, in terms of the attacking patterns we showed and their weaknesses. But you’ve also got to be mindful of their strengths, and they’re a brilliant team going forward.

“They’ve got good players with the likes of Sam Greenwood, who plays for England and his set pieces are very dangerous.

“They have some really good attacking players, but we know where their weaknesses are and we’re going to try and exploit those.”

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