MANAGER Mark Ashford believes his young Witham Town players will be reaping the benefits from the exposure to senior first-team action that they are continuing to get in Bostik League division north this season.

Town's game at AFC Sudbury saw ten players in the squad of 15 aged still in their teens and while it ended in a 3-1 defeat for Witham, Ashford felt they handled the experience well.

“I think having ten teenage players is impressive," said the Witham boss.

“People said when I took the job that the combination of a small budget and using young players to stay in this division was not sustainable.

“But here we are with six games to go and we’re eight points clear of the relegation zone.

“We haven’t gone out and got in a load of experienced players to boost ourselves at the end of the season like some clubs, we have trusted these young players.

“We maybe had a few more in the squad than I would have ideally wanted at Sudbury but we had injuries and some were unavailable.

“We then had Danny Norton and Toby Aromolaran come off with injuries early on, so it wasn’t an easy game for us.

“But the likes of Fergal Looney and Jack Lelliott and the trio on loan from Concord – Louie Hunt, Cameron Harris and Teddy Rumsey – all did very well indeed.

“It was a hard game for them as well because it was a very tactical game.

“It was a very fluid game with both teams having good philosophies they wanted to stick to and for these players to be exposed to that was very good.

“They were all shattered at the end because of all the thinking you have to do in a tactical game like that and they all went away knowing how much fitter you need to be to cope with games like that.

“It’s a massive learning curve for them."

Ashford knows the youngsters will be better for the experience and pointed to one youngster - goalkeeper Luca Collins - who is continuing to blossom after being given the opportunity to get regular first-team action.

He added: “Look at someone like Luca Collins, who was brilliant again at Sudbury.

“He is another example of a young player who we have shown faith in and he is certainly rewarding us for that now.

“At the end of this season he will have 40 games under his belt and he will be all the better for it next season.

“He has recognised the opportunity to play week-in week-out and the benefits he’ll reap from that in his career long term."