An update from our Dunbar United U20's Manager Stuart Allan

Since my last update, we have played six games. I promised myself that I do these updates more frequently to ensure they were shorter, that’s gone out the window.

First, we had two back to back games at NCP. It was Leith Athletic to start with, in the league. We were slow to start in the first half and truthfully, I didn’t think we were great. Second half we were excellent, scoring a couple of great team moves. My favourite goal that night was Harry Clark’s. Harry started the game at right back, finishing the game playing just behind the striker, scoring a really crucial third goal. The finish epitomises the quality Harry has got. 

Next, we faced Spartans FC. It was two teams at different ends of the U20’s spectrum, in terms of how long they’ve been running. Spartans have always been extremely strong. We lost 5-0, but the lads were really good. It was 2-0 at halftime, both Spartans goals just oozed quality. We had a couple of chances at 0-0 and on the whole, our shape looked really good. Two or three weeks after our meeting, eight of that same Spartans U20’s squad were playing in a cup tie against Stoneyburn for their 1st team. It was an excellent test, as the lads were playing against top, top players. 

We then faced top of the league, Penicuik Athletic. For me, one of my favourite nights in football that evening. We were top class, Daniel Hall, Jasiu Zakrzewski & Gregor Goldie were particularly unplayable. But truthfully, from front to back we were outstanding. We defended well, created a number of chances but looked good for a 4-1 victory. Importantly, we had five subs come on again that night, David McIntyre, Ross Buckley, Jake Douther, Calum Richards and Brandon Dean all contributed from the bench. Calum gained an assist, and Jake Douther scored an excellent fourth. 

We were then back at home to Arniston Rangers the following week. As a manager, you cannot complain about scoring eleven goals. We moved the ball really well that night. Our first goal consists of five or six passes for example. What pleases me most, we did everything properly, that’s the type of characters we have. Jasiu Zakrzewski scored a hattrick inside forty five minutes, he had to come off at halftime, with an issue which he’s still got unfortunately. I remember writing when he first signed, ‘he’s a player that gets a supporter of their feet’. He’s another one of my players I love watching with the ball.

Then came our first league defeat of 2023. We have played worse and won this season! Taking nothing away from Musselburgh, as league tables don’t lie at this stage in the season, they are a good side. But the first fifteen or sixteen minutes, we looked back to our old selves defensively, which probably cost us. We started flat and were passive without the ball. Saying that, I felt we did enough to get something from the game, as we played some really nice football at points. I was really pleased with the way we played in the end, as for the remaining seventy four minutes, we were really good. 

Last Friday, we played Camelon Juniors. Our goals and highlights weren’t great due to the horrible weather, but some of our play was superb. Our fourth goal (which you can’t really see), is a fantastic move. I’m under no illusion, the red card put us in the driving seat and changed the game. I’m really pleased for Brandon Dean & Leo Harrison getting their goals. Competition in this squad is extremely high, strikers particularly, I’m very lucky to have the quality that I do.

I have no doubt many have noted the inclusion of first team players in our squads this season. We have done it multiple times this season, but not to purely increase the odds of winning an U20’s football match. Winning games of football isn’t a primary gauge of success. We have had Dean Whitson, Willis Hare, Kerr Allan and Michael McFarlane involved with us recently. During that time, we have had one centre back available for selection, due to injuries in my squad. All of the lads from the first team that have been involved, have been top class. 

Majority of players playing U20’s football attached to a East of Scotland or Lowland League club, will have the ambition to at some point, play adult football. That is what I’m here to do, to support the development of my group and prepare them for first team football. Ultimately, my objective is to get as many U20’s players in Kevin’s first team squad as physically possible. From my own experience of playing U20’s football, these are valuable learnings. 

We now have four remaining and have set targets for the lads. I love watching my young squad at the minute. As soon as the lads arrive at training, they have their speaker on, when they train or play, they have an infectious enthusiasm for being here.

A non-negotiable for me is being a good teammate and working hard for the guy next to you. If we split the season in half so far, we won two out of our opening nine league games. In the last nine games, those lads have won seven of them. I am incredibly proud of those boys – that’s quite a change those boys have instigated. 

As ever, thank you so much for the incredible support you continue to show our young group. Our last two games at NCP had over 100 people come along, that’s more than some EOS first teams. Genuinely I can’t thank you all enough. 

Take care

Stuart Allan