Hartlepool United Academy end 2023 with a home fixture against Rochdale U18s at Tuesday midday at Blackhall (TS27 4LX).
Pools' Academy side have been out of action since November 25, a 2-1 win away to Notts County where Euan McBride scored a late winner. However, Tuesday's EFL Youth Alliance Cup fixture will provide Ian McGuckin's side one last assignment before heading into the New Year.
"We're looking forward to it," stated the Academy Manager.
"We've went a long time without a game which has been slightly frustrating. It's been hard for us to get some momentum together and as a young player, all you want to do is play football. On the other hand, it's allowed us shake off any knocks so we've got a fully fit squad to choose from.
"We played an in-house friendly against the College development team on Friday morning, which was a great workout for us. Rochdale will be a good test for us - they're in a similar position to ourselves in the North West Division so it should be a decent game."
McGuckin also touched on one player in particular, Louis Stephenson, who made headlines last weekend. The defender came off the bench away to City of Liverpool in the Isuzu FA Trophy and scored his first senior goal.
"We’re all delighted for Louis," McGuckin added.
"He made two appearances for the first team last season which he thoroughly deserved, but to come off the bench and score with his first touch of the game is special.
"He’s worked hard with the first team in training and impressed so we want him to keep that going. Quite a few lads have stepped up to training over recent weeks and also travelled with the squad so it’s fantastic for them to have those experiences.”
Archie Small was also recognised last week. The College development team captain was announced as part of the 2023/24 England Schoolboys squad following a successful trial period.
“It’s brilliant news for Archie and his family," said McGuckin.
"He’s worked very hard and to get rewarded with a call-up to the England Schoolboys squad is excellent. Oscar Fletcher was also called up last season so it’s great to see two lads being rewarded in consecutive years and it shows the strength of our Academy and College programme.”