Stephen Crainey 'gutted' for impressive young Fleetwood Town side after Papa John's Trophy defeat at Bolton

Stephen Crainey says the strength of Fleetwood's young talent was there for all to see in Tuesday's Papa John's Trophy exit at Bolton Wanderers.

Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 8:05 am
Updated Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 8:08 am

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The 40-year-old has stepped up from his role as under-23s boss to take charge of Town's senior team on an interim basis, though his selection for the 1-0 defeat at Bolton looked more like one of his development squad sides.

Crainey changed the entire starting 11 from his first game in charge at Wimbledon on Saturday, granting full debuts to Sam Bird, Dylan Boyle and Cian Hayes.

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Former Blackpool teammates reunite as Fleetwood boss Stephen Crainey (left) greets his Bolton counterpart Ian Evatt

There were six Academy products in the starting 11 and Crainey was impressed by what he saw, though the former Scotland international was "gutted" to bow out of the Trophy at the first knockout stage.

Crainey said: "The thinking was that we’ve got some good young players here at the football club and I think we showed that, especially in the second half.

“It took them a little while in the first half to adapt and adjust to the physicality, but once they got the ball on the floor in the second half we caused them problems.

“I think we probably should have scored a couple of goals in the second half.

“I said to them in the dressing room that I felt for them because I felt we deserved at least a draw in the game.

“The most pleasing aspect was seeing young lads in the ascendency showing good tempo, desire and hunger to get that goal, but unfortunately they never got it in the end.

“There were some really mature performances. They have been saying to me that they deserve a chance in the first team, so I said, ‘Go and show me’ and a couple of them have done that.”

Crainey' focus now returns to third-bottom Fleetwood's League One predicament and Saturday's trip to Accrington Stanley.

Town's 10-match winless run includes last month's 4-1 home defeat by Stanley in their final Trophy group game.

And young players who impressed against a Bolton side managed by Crainey's former Blackpool teammate Ian Evatt have given themselves a chance of featuring against Town's Lancashire rivals this weekend

The interim boss added: “A lot of the lads have played a lot of minutes and I felt tonight was the right time to give them a rest.

“It was also a great opportunity to give the younger lads a chance and I thought they responded excellently.

"I’m just gutted they didn’t get anything out of the game because I thought they thoroughly deserved it.

“It’s not a surprise to me to see them put in a performance like that.

“I’ve worked with some of those lads for the past two or three years.

“They have got some outstanding quality and we showed it on the pitch.

“Once they settled and felt comfortable, I thought we were the better side.

“They are definitely in my thoughts going forward and that’s what you want as a manager.

“You want as many selection headaches as you can get and that’s what they have done to me.”

And Crainey reaffirmed he has held no talks about taking the job long-term,

“As it stands from the hierarchy, I’ve been told to take it on a temporary basis," he said once again. "I’ve heard nothing at all.

"I just focus on training the players daily and focus on the matches.”

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