Gary McSheffrey was pleased with how the U23s gelled in their first competitive game of the season – a 1-0 win over visitors Portsmouth.
Joe Wright’s first half goal got Rovers off to a winning start in the Premier League Cup as the centreback took his place in a starting XI which included a mix of first team, U23s, and U18s.
“That’s our first competitive game and it’s nice to see that on the big stage tonight the competitive edge came out and we looked comfortable. We’re throwing a team together with the U23s, some coming down from the first team and a few of the U18s stepping up so to gel and look so comfortable was really pleasing,” said McSheffrey.
“I thought it was a good game and there were some important minutes for certain first team players. We had three at the back so you have to be brave in your defenders, especially when they play with high wingers because you’re leaving yourselves open a bit but the game plan was to be aggressive and our pressing was good.
“The 90 minutes that some of them got on Tuesday night will get the fitness levels really high for whenever they have to step up into the first team. It builds our group’s confidence as well because we out ran Portsmouth, we out fought them and I thought we were better in possession. We rat around, if you like, to get the ball back but when we were in possession we were calm.”
Wright played his first competitive minutes of the campaign after picking up an injury against Hull City in the final pre-season friendly. The centre back got an hour under his belt in the middle of a back three on Tuesday night as he builds himself back up to match fitness.
“It was brilliant to see Joe out there. I’ve had him with me for the last couple of training sessions – obviously if the first team are preparing for a game, or on a Saturday morning when he needs to do a bit extra and whenever he’s with us, he raises the standard,” added McSheffrey.
“That’s the type of person that Joe is. For me, players like him need to come into the U23s group at times because it shows the boys the level that you have to train at and the professionalism you need. The tempo is the big one for me, he’s relentless for an hour, does things right and doesn’t moan. He gets it and he leads by example. He was terrific on Tuesday night.
“For his age, Joe is really experienced and for two season I thought his improvement – especially on the ball and when he’s in possession. His whole game has gone up a few levels in the last few seasons and he’s been unfortunate that he hasn’t been able to build on that this season because of his injury but hopefully that’s behind him and when you look at him and Donervon Daniels who got 90 minutes, you’re looking at our four centre-backs and you’ve got to say we’re in a good place.”