City under-18s captain Ashley Smith-Brown is determined to end the campaign on a high and get his hands on a second trophy of the season.
The young Blues have swept all before them in the u18 Northern Premier League, finishing top of the table by eight points to lift the trophy and book a semi-final berth against Southern runners-up, West Ham.
In the Youth Cup, City bowed out to eventual finalists Fulham at the fifth round stage, and Smith-Brown is keen to channel that disappointment, alongside the momentum of an outstanding league campaign, to secure a coveted spot in the final.
The defender told mcfc.co.uk: “I think after the disappointment of going out of the Youth Cup we owe it to ourselves to hopefully go and win the Nationals now.
“I think we all thought that we had a good chance to win the Youth Cup this year, so hopefully we can learn from that and do ourselves justice in the play-offs, especially after having such a good season in the North League as well.”
Since confirming play-off qualification in March, City u18s have won five games on the bounce, including victory over West Ham by a comfortable 3-0 margin as the regular season drew to a close.
However, Ash warns the team cannot take anything for granted and will have to be at their best to progress.
He said: “I personally think it will be a different game this time. You never know what will happen in such an important game like this, so everyone has to be up for it and we have to play as well as we can do.
“But all of us deep down think we have a good chance.”
One of the key factors in the success so far this term, and cause for optimism ahead of Saturday’s clash, is the team ethic which has coursed through the collective veins of Jason Wilcox’s young charges.
“I think the team spirit has helped us throughout the whole season,” the England youth international reflected.
“We’ve had ups and downs and the team has stuck together really well."
"Everyone has chipped in – including the under-16s who have come in and done well too. I think it’s been a great season for everyone and hopefully we can continue that on Saturday.”
The play-offs will be the last time the skipper takes to the field as part of the Academy set-up before moving up to Patrick Vieira’s Elite Development Squad in the summer.
Ash has been a part of City’s youth system for over a decade, and acknowledges that his side being crowned National Champions would be the perfect graduation present.
He declared: “There would be nothing better than leaving the Academy with a trophy. It would be the second trophy I’ve won including the North Division, and it would be a good step to be able to take that experience up to the EDS.”