Crawley boss hails young duo

Manchester City star James Milner believes his side can harness
the pressure mounting on their defence of the Premier League
title.

Roberto Mancini’s men currently lie six points behind city
rivals Manchester United – and rumours of divisions within the
squad have spread since the 3-2 derby defeat on 9 December.

But Milner said: “Nothing changes really. It’s been like that
since I’ve been at the club – players are not happy, players are
arguing. We’ll just continue what we do best and that’s getting out
on the field and getting three points.

“We need to keep improving as a team. I think the best is yet to
come this season and let’s hope we can keep moving forward.

“When you’re at the top and you’re champions, people want to
knock you off that pedestal and they’ll try anything whether it’s
on the field or off the field. They are things you learn to deal
with.

“It definitely brings you closer together when everyone outside
is against you. You have that siege mentality and put that to good
use.”

After coolly outclassing Newcastle 3-1 at St James’ Park at the
weekend, the champions welcome struggling new boys Reading to the
Etihad Stadium next up on Saturday.

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Mark Connolly, who turned 21 the day after the Boro clash, and
Joe Walsh, 20, finished the game as the Red Devils’ centre-back
pairing and impressed Barker, whose side are now just six points
off the top of the League One table.

“I have always been a firm believer in giving young players a
chance and I was delighted with how Mark and Joe did in the second
half,” Barker said.

“They are both good players. They have played Under-21s football
for their country and on Saturday they came of age a little
bit.

“Mark has got better with every game since he came back into the
side in recent weeks and Joe alongside him was very composed.

“Stevenage’s striker Marcus Haber was a handful but I thought
they coped well with his threat and they played a big part in what
was a very good result.

“I am trying to build something at the football club which will
last for long time, I’m not just looking at the next six months of
this season.

“Developing young players is crucial for the club.”

Connolly and Walsh were not the only youngsters among the
Crawley contingent at Broadhall Way as 18-year-old striker Jonte
Smith, who scored 24 goals during a loan spell with Met Police, was
among the replacements.

Barker added: “At some stage we will see what Jonte has got. I
certainly won’t have any problem using him if I have to, his age is
irrelevant. He is a goalscorer and he wouldn’t be the first
teenager in the game to make an impact.”