Mark Jackson highlights key Leeds United quality as U21s side earn first-ever EFL Trophy win at Oldham

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Leeds United’s development squad manager Mark Jackson spoke glowingly of his side’s performance in Tuesday night’s 3-2 win over Oldham in the Papa John’s Trophy.

The club’s under-21s side, which comprised of players from the under-18s up to the under-23s earned their first win the competition and kept alive their hopes of progressing out of the group stage.

Jackson told LUTV he was ”delighted’ with both the result and the performance.

“It’s fantastic for the boys to get the win tonight,” he said. “We challenged the boys to get the three points because we knew we needed that to give ourselves any chance of progressing in the competition.

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“(I am) really, really pleased that we could secure the three points but also the way we played, the way we applied ourselves in the game. We tried to play our game and I thought we showed real strong elements of our game within that.”

Asked what was different about this performance and the one which saw Leeds fall to a 4-1 defeat at Tranmere in the previous fixture, the coach added:

“We were really, really young against Tranmere. It’s difficult to claw your way back into the game against senior sides. We set our stall out and gave ourselves a platform by taking the lead.

“The way we thought about the game and managing the ball and drawing Oldham onto us and trying to exploit them was much better. It didn’t always come off but that’s development football.”

Jackson’s words on ‘managing the ball’ is clearly something which he’d spoken about with the players before the game, with winger Amari Miller saying in his own post-match comments, “We’ve got the quality to go forward, score goals and create chances. It’s just about managing the game.”

“I feel like in previous games that something that hasn’t helped us as we want to go, go all the time. We just said to ourselves, ‘today we need to make sure we manage the game, get the three points.'”

Jackson was happy with his young Whites ability to attack in the way which the club has implemented at all levels since the arrival of Marcelo Bielsa.

‘We wanted to exploit them in wide areas. We wanted to try and get players to play between the lines and receive. I thought there were really good patterns of play, particularly in the second half where we played through them.

“Credit to the players for recognising those patterns and opportunities to play through. The combinations in wide areas to create chances was pleasing. Maybe our end product could have been a bit better tonight but overall really promising performance from my group of players tonight.”

The Whites had led 2-0 in the game, after a first-half Crysencio Summerville penalty was followed by an own goal in the second half after some excellent play from Sean McGurk down the right.

Oldham pulled a goal back but Leeds quickly got back on top and Lewis Bate laid on the third goal for Max Dean, with the young side comfortable in the game from there. The second Oldham goal came in the closing seconds, with a deflected long-range strike flying past Kristoffer Klaesson but it was too little too late for Oldham.

The U21 side will travel to Salford City for their final game of the group stages and have given themselves a chance to qualify for the next round. Miller believes the team can get the job done, saying:

“We’ve got a brilliant group of lads. We know that we’re capable and we can go and the exact same thing next time we’re (playing) in this competition.”

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