INTERVIEW: Look much better defensively

Manager on the Stevenage game

United manager Greg Abbott gave us his reaction to the home win over Stevenage shortly after full time on Saturday night.

“It wasn’t an easy one for us, but I don’t think it ever will be at this level,” he said.

“They’ve got the best away record outside of the top two so we have to give credit to the lads where it’s due. The sending off was another of those which didn’t really do us any favours.
“Their goal came at a really bad time and the crowd got a bit nervous, so that spread a bit of anxiety onto the pitch. The last thing you want to do is concede a two-goal lead against a ten-man team, but we definitely ended up making the job harder than it needed to be.”

“If one of the shots that hit the post or the bar had gone in then it would have been a much more comfortable afternoon, but those are the margins we work under,” he added. “However, I’m not unhappy at all because we’ve just picked up another three points and we’ve beaten one of the away form sides in our division.

“The second half was a bit of a mixed bag for us. Some of the attacking play was a bit shoddy but some of it was sensational. You’re going to get that though and, at this stage of the season, it’s about winning games. We’ve defended really well and we’ve created chances, so we can’t ask for much more than that.”

On the two major talking points of the first half, he said: “The first goal turned into quite a confusing situation. 

“I’d turned to the dug out and I was cheering, then Kav [Graham Kavanagh] stopped me to tell me that somebody was offside. I turned round and all of a sudden it was onside again. I don’t know if we’ve been lucky with the decision or not, but I think we deserved the win whatever the outcome of that.

“With the sending off, we’d have been upset if he hadn’t been shown the red card. You never want to see any player sent off but the referee had no choice there. We thought it was going to be our afternoon after that but, as on a number of other occasions, we made it slightly harder than it should have been.” 

“Stevenage are hard to beat,” he told us. “They defend really well and they make life difficult. I maybe need to pat myself on the back for making the 12-hour round trip to watch them on Tuesday night. That has been rewarded and I would have felt guilty, having had the opportunity to do that, if we’d lost the game and I hadn’t bothered to go along to confirm what I already knew in my own mind.”

Discussing the recent switch of formations to accommodate the Miller-Loy strike force, he said: “We play different systems to suit the players we have available and to cater for those who are in form. 

“We also tinker with it to suit the opposition, so it’s a case of doing what you think is right to win a game. We changed it last week because we thought it would suit Rory [Loy] and he got his goal. It would have been harsh to change it for this one, after that performance, and we’ve got the win from sticking with it. However, Tuesday night will be different again so we might have to look at what we do in what will be a totally different game.

“We’ve gone for experience for the last few games and that has been key. I know people think we should play the younger players as much as possible, and we will do that when the situation is right. 

“Our job is to get results and I’ll always pick the team with that in mind. The impact David Symington has had recently has been phenomenal and the 15 minutes he has had will go to 30, then to 45. If he carries on as he is then it will go to full starts because that’s what he’s working towards at the moment.”

“There’s a lot of confidence in the group at the moment and you could tell before the game that they expected to go out and win,” he explained. “That’s what happens when you’re on a good run. 

“We want to finish the season as powerfully as we can and I still have nightmares about the games where we were two or three down before half time.  We’ve worked exceptionally hard to turn that round and things are starting to go for us again.”

“We were disappointed with their goal,” he added. “We didn’t stop the cross and we didn’t defend it once it was in the box. It was a perfect header, to be fair to Haber, but we could and should have done better.

“We’ve looked much better defensively overall and that has given the whole team confidence. Sean O’Hanlon has come in and really helped us with that. We’re winning the first ball, which we needed to do, and with the situation he’s in he’ll be keen to see the season out with some decent performances. With what we’ve seen from him we have to think that if we can do something with him going forward, we will. He likes us and we like him so, if we can make it all fit, we’ll see where it goes.”

“We’re pleased with where we’re going because we’ve had a lot to deal with this season, on and off the pitch,” he concluded. “It’s been the hardest season for me since my first one, when our focus was on staying up, but we’re getting tougher as we go along. We’re dealing with it all better so we’re starting to feel like we’re in a position to kick on again.”

United Player subscribers can see a video interview with Greg Abbott now. Click HERE to go to the Player platform. Follow the same link for more information on United Player, and to subscribe.
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