Crawley boss hails young duo

Barker: Long-term plan

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Richie Barker paid tribute to his young defenders for their roles in Crawley's 2-1 victory over Stevenage.

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."