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Maidstone United manager Jay Saunders on Crystal Palace's first-team U-turn

By Craig Tucker

Maidstone boss Jay Saunders felt for fans who were expecting to see Crystal Palace’s Premier League stars.

Saturday’s friendly, marking five years at the Gallagher, was arranged as a first-team fixture after United replied to a Palace circular.

But new boss Frank de Boer moved the goalposts two days before the game when he revealed he would instead be fielding a youth side.

Maidstone manager Jay Saunders Picture: Andy Jones

That left a record crowd of more than 4,000 feeling let down and while Saunders was disappointed with the late U-turn, he got plenty out of the game which Palace won 3-1.

He said: “You’re disappointed to start with because obviously for the crowd and everyone involved it would have been nice to see the first team but, on the flip side of that, I think you actually get more of a test.

“I think the younger lads take it more seriously than probably your likes of Christian Benteke, who wouldn’t really fancy it, and this way you get a lot of young lads who are trying to impress.

“What a great experience for them to have the new first-team gaffer sitting on the bench and they’re out there trying to impress him.

“For me, you probably get a better test or a harder test with the younger lads than you would maybe with the first team.”

Crystal Palace manager Frank de Boer at the Gallagher Picture: Andy Jones

Jordon Mutch was the only experienced player to feature for Palace and he scored twice in the first half as de Boer’s kids led 2-1 before clinching victory with a late third.

Youngsters Levi Lumeka, Andre Coker and Jason Lokilo were among those to impress and while they’re unknowns at the moment, they could be names to look out for.

Saunders said: “I know some supporters might have been disappointed they didn’t bring more first-team players - I think Mutch was the only one you would call a regular - but you could see the young lads had a lot of ability and it’s probably nice for their supporters to see some of the up and coming talent.

“Speaking to their staff, de Boer’s quite keen on getting some of the youth lads through so I’m sure you’ll some of those names in the future.

Delano Sam-Yorke works the Palace defence Picture: Andy Jones

“I was chatting to their management and they were saying he wants to bring the age of the first team down and so I think that’s his philosophy if you like and hopefully he’ll be able to do that.

“You can see they’ve got some good players.

“Going forward they had some very good players, very sharp and they caused us problems.

“The only disappointing thing is the goals we conceded could all have been avoided.”

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