'You train like a beast, you play like a beast'
THEY say age is just a number, and an exuberant Magpies Crusaders outfit proved just that.
Taking on a formidable Gold Coast United, the Mackay and Whitsunday side banded together to salvage a brave nil-all draw in Tallebudgera against their more fancied rivals.
At first, everything seemed to go against the visitors.
Experienced midfielder Liam Shipton succumbed to a hamstring injury to throw a spanner in the works before the kick-off.
But it was a performance that made coach Henry Kennell proud of his charges, the growth shown by the young contingent promising ahead of their daunting clash with Olympic FC on Sunday.
"I think I had two 24-year-olds and the rest were under 19,” Kennell said.
"One thing with young people is their performances may not be as consistent, but when they do find a bit of form they roll with it.
"I say it's like a roller coaster: it has its ups and downs ... it's just trying to grab them on more highs than lows.
"I make sure I show the players I have a lot of belief in them: they work hard for me and I work hard for them.”
It was a pleasing afternoon for Magpies Crusaders goalkeeper Mitch Wright as the side registered their first clean sheet of the NPL season.
After a lean period of 11 consecutive losses, the determined young side are beginning to show their wares under Kennell as confidence grows within the squad.
Since the head coach assumed the mantle, Magpies Crusaders have recorded two wins, two draws and two losses in the premier competition to halt their slide down the ladder.
According to Kennell, the bond between his players is developing everyday and when they are willing to play for each other the results inevitably will follow.
"When you get more success you start to get that belief and try some things. I encourage them and ask them to be brave and have a go on the pitch,” he said.
"I think that's important because it's how they grow and get better. They've got nothing to lose.
"Going in there, Gold Coast United are on the top part of the table and there's some big names in that team. This was one where the whole team actually banded together.”
The squad will have little time to revel in their strong showing, with an FFA Cup match against Coomera Colts to come. Their biggest test will be on Sunday afternoon when they are confronted by NPL heavyweights Olympic FC.
For Kennell, their preparation will focus on fostering their renewed confidence and take their efforts from training onto Sologinkin Oval.
"For me it's what we do on the training pitch. I'm a big believer that the foundations we set there we put on the pitch,” he said.
"It's about keeping them level-headed and working hard; if you're working hard in training you're no stranger when it comes to games.
"You train like a beast, you play like a beast.”