MICHAEL Appleton reserved special praise for Josh Ashby after the teenager finished off an impressive week by scoring the winner for Oxford United on Saturday.
The highly-rated midfielder, who signed his first professional contract in February, scored with a free-kick as the U’s began their pre-season fixtures with a 2-1 win at Farnborough.
It was Appleton’s first game in charge and the head coach admitted Ashby, 18, had immediately caught the eye when he took over last Monday.
He said: “I’ve been really impressed with the kid since I walked through the door.
“From day one my first thought was ‘who is that? Tell me about him’.
He added: “The kid’s a talent.
“He sees a pass and that’s a talent in itself.
“Obviously you’ve got to deliver the pass, but he’s getting better all the time.
“You can see with a couple of years’ development and hopefully being around the first-team, we might have a player.”
Ashby, who struck the woodwork with an earlier free-kick but cleared the stand with a third attempt, was thrilled to find the net.
He said: “It was good to get a goal, especially a free-kick.
“I actually don’t practice them a lot. Last year I was on free-kicks towards the end and didn’t score.
“I haven’t really practised them, I do need to – did you see the third one?”
Farnborough’s goal came virtually from the kick-off following Ashby’s goal.
It was a sensational 60-yard effort from Lucas Enrique, catching out triallist goalkeeper Liam Roberts.
- Highlights of the match, courtesy of Farnborough's YouTube channel
Appleton said: “It was a fantastic strike and you won’t see me pointing any fingers at Liam.
“He’s a 19-year-old who has probably only had 12 months coaching and I think he got caught in two minds with what he was going to do with it.”
The U’s boss was just happy to get through the game without picking up any new injuries.
Five senior players, including new signing Danny Hylton, David Hunt and Josh Ruffels, did not make the trip to Hampshire.
It is not cause for alarm, though, and all are expected to feature either at Oxford City tomorrow night or against Didcot Town on Saturday.
United should have a couple of new faces by then, with both Appleton and chief executive Mark Ashton saying on Saturday they were confident of sealing at least one deal before the City game.
Depending on progress made yesterday, the club may be in a position to unveil a new signing today.
Appleton also revealed the U’s were looking into taking the squad away for a short training break later this month, but acknowledged it might be too late to arrange.
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