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Oxford United: Boss Liam Manning praises academy youngsters following EFL Trophy win

Oxford United boss Liam Manning has praised the club's academy players following their win in the opening round of the EFL Trophy.

The U's beat fellow League One side Northampton Town 3-1 in the competition's group stage.

George Franklin started while Louis Griffiths and Aidan Elliott-Wheeler made their debuts off the bench.

Griffiths, who turned 16 on Sunday, became the club's youngest ever player to appear in a senior game.

"We were just laughing because he [Griffiths] is just 16 and starts back at school this week," Manning told BBC Radio Oxford.

"It made me smile when within the first 30 seconds of being on the pitch he arrived in the pocket and demanded the ball, I think that speaks volumes of his character.

"It's quite refreshing when you see someone that age just step onto the pitch fearless and they haven't been scarred by the industry yet - long may that continue."

With Oxford missing a number of players due to international call-ups and injuries, Manning made nine changes to his starting 11.

The 38-year-old - who is in his first full season as the U's head coach - said it was the perfect chance for young players to make their mark.

"We work really closely with our academy," he added. "We have had George, Louie and Aidan around at training so we know what kind of players are coming through.

"This tournament is a really good chance to see how the boys step up and hopefully the game has given the three a little taste of professional football.

"Now they know it's about going away, getting their heads down, working hard, turning up and trying to improve every day and ultimately delivering.

"The lads gave the three boys a round of applause in the dressing room after the match."

'A pathway for young players'

Outside cup competition, Oxford have made an impressive start to their League One campaign with four wins from six games.

With a long season ahead of them Manning says the performance of his young trio against Northampton was the standard he was looking for in younger members of the squad.

"I look at their behaviour, are they honest, hard working, is their attitude good and are they willing to learn?" he added.

"The boys ticked all those boxes.

"For us, it is really about gaining trust and I think that is important for any young player coming through to understand that.

"During a game you can't perform eight out of 10 and then in the next action be a four out of 10.

"That trustworthiness and reliability needs to be underpinned in everything they do and then on top of that for me is can they produce the wow moments?

"I think what all this shows is there is a pathway here at Oxford for young players.

"We will always look in house for talent first before looking externally."