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.

Don’t miss any live and exclusive football coverage this

festive season. Click

href='http://www.skysports.com/festive?DCMP=afc-skysports:na_festivecalendar|footballbespoke'

target='_blank' class='instorylink'>here

to visit Sky Sports’ Festive Calendar

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.”