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Issott Previews New Under-21 Season

19 August 2014

Palace development boss Gary Issott believes that his side's pre-season games against a mixture of league and non-league sides will help give them an edge going into tomorrow's league opener against Sheffield Wednesday.

The under-21s manager has overseen his side's six warm-up matches during the summer which  has only seen the Eagles beaten once as they aim to improve on their third-place finish in the Professional Development League 2 table last season.

Having once again brought through a number of youngsters from the academy side into the under-21 fold this summer, Issott believes his squad have benefited from playing a range of teams to give Palace the best possible chance of getting a favourable results against the Owls.

He said: “Pre-season is all about giving players opportunities. We wanted to get everyone up to speed to give them every chance to make a claim for a starting spot against Sheffield Wednesday and I think we've been successful in doing that.

“We've played a variety of league and non-league opposition which has been a real test for the players. We started at Beckenham Town where there was a big crowd of over 1,700 that will help them get some much-needed funds and we saw that game through 4-1 which was a good start for us.

“We then went on our travels to Havant and Waterlooville and got a 0-0 draw before playing Dulwich Hamlet which many of our supporters might have seen us win that 3-2.

“After that we had a disappointing display against Bromley where the scoreline saw us lose 3-2 but we were well beaten on the night, but it was a good awakening for some of the younger players to find out how tough sides from the Conference South can be.

“Bouncing back from that we got a credible draw against Fulham and then got a draw this week against a strong Luton Town side so I'm pleased. The only frustration I have is that Ryan Inniss hasn't played much during pre-season due a hamstring injury because it's a big year for him.”

As well as Inniss, Issott has earmarked a number of the more experienced members of his side to help develop some of the new faces to his squad, some of whom he has high hopes for ahead of the new campaign. 

“It's a big season for players such as Reise Allassani, Jake Gray, Hiram Boateng and Sullay Kaikai, as well as Kyle de Silva who has been plagued by injury for the last couple of years, but despite the step up Jacob Berkley-Agyepong and Mandela Egbo have done really well in pre-season too.

“We want as many of our players to go and play in the Football League to improve themselves and a lot of the players want that too. In between their loan spells it's important that we train with them everyday to try to make them better and keep them in the shop window for the management here.”

Having seen his side come so close to reaching the final stages of the competition last season, Issott is hopeful that they could go a step further this time round, but emphasises that the priority is to improve his players rather than aim for silverware.

“I think you never set off to win leagues at this level, you want to get the players pushed on as quickly as possibly but every game you go into you want to win. 

“If come April time we're in the top echelons of the division then you would push to get a play-off place but our objectives are more about the players than the team.”   

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