Alton manager Kevin Adair has hailed the impact of the young players in his squad.
The Brewers took a big step towards securing their Combined Counties Premier Division South status with two home wins in the past week against teams below them in the league table.
The Brewers backed up that important result with a 4-2 victory against Fleet Town on Tuesday night thanks to goals from Ed Dryden, Jack Fowler and Mdlalose (2).
Sixteen-year-old defenders Archie Larkham and George Winkworth both started against Fleet, with Larkham also starting against Guildford, and Adair sees positive days ahead for Alton.
“We’ve got a 16-year-old at right-back and a 16-year-old at centre-half who have started the game and played 90 minutes against Fleet,” said Adair.
“You really should be looking at big positives from that.
“The points are massively important to me, because that’s what matters for the club’s future in this league, but the club’s future is also in the hands of those young lads.
“To be involved in a game of that stature and that importance, and for them to come through it with no real issues, has given me a great headache.
“There will be a couple who want to come back into the side on Saturday and it’s a good problem to have. We’ve taken until this long to build the squad we wanted – now my job is to keep them together.
“Fleet had an aerial threat going forward, so you’d like some big, experienced lads to deal with that. Archie has come in and been tremendous at right-back, and cemented his place in the side.
“George has been available for the past six games and been involved in squads and got his start. You may have thought he’d struggle to deal with it – but you wouldn’t have said it was one of his first starts in senior football.
“Siph has also been important to us this year. He’s a good lad and has brought something to the group in terms of the playing side and the group in the changing room.
“Everyone who has come in this season – Louis Russell, Siph, the young lads – they all bring something to it and it’s such a good group in there.
“They deserve more than what’s happened for us this year. My only worry was it wasn’t going as well for them as I knew it could be and should be, but they’ve stuck with it and stuck together.
“We’ve probably been playing with a little bit of pressure, and I need to take that off the lads – let me feel the pressure so they can go out and enjoy it.”
Next up for Alton is an away game against Balham in the Combined Counties Premier Division South on Saturday.
The Brewers lost 3-2 at home to Balham in their opening league game, and Adair is expecting another tough test.
“When Balham came here they tried to play football,” said Adair. “The game was our first league game and we soon realised what the league was going to be about.
“Balham were probably one of the more technical and tactical sides we came up against in the first three months of the season, so I don’t expect anything less than that.
“Whether they came here to play on the 3G surface and whether what they do at home is different, I don’t know.
“We’ll have a look at what they’re doing this week and see if we can pick up some information, but we’re a team who try to do our stuff well and then adapt to the opposition.”