INTERVIEW: A great exercise

Graham Kavanagh after the Rangers friendly

Assistant manager Graham Kavanagh spoke about pre-season and the importance of the week ahead shortly after full time in the Rangers friendly at Murray Park on Saturday.

“This was a good work out and a good performance,” he said. “There were a lot of really decent things from us in the second half and we’re pleased about that.

“I needed to have a chat with them after the first half in terms of keeping the game as simple as we could. I wanted them to use their mindset to think about when it was right to close down and press, and when it was time for us attack. 

“I wanted them to think about whether or not they were making the right decisions and, to be fair to them, they took it on board and it all came together for them after the break.”

“We want all of our players, whatever level they are at, to start games properly this year,” he continued. “We can’t afford to be giving away early goals, but the reaction when that happened today was fantastic. 

“We had a lot of young lads in the team and they are still learning the style we want to play. It’s a lot of information for them to take in but it’s about using your head and organising yourself early in every situation. If you do that then it stops you from having to run around with no end result.”

“We’ve had discussions as a coaching staff about what we do or what we could change before games to see if that could help the way we start,” he revealed. “It could be that we need to be a little bit more aggressive in our manner. We saw at half time today – once one or two choice words were said – that we got a real response from it. 

“But we also need the lads to buy into the importance of getting it right from the very first whistle. We aren’t always going to start well but that’s fine as long as we make sure we don’t concede. It’s when you ship that early goal that you suddenly find you’re chasing the game. 

“We have players in the team who can cause the opposition problems so it’s about getting on top and using what we have to our advantage.”

And on the double-header of games north of the border, he said: “I think this whole weekend has been a great exercise for us. 

“Some of the lads had to play last night [Kilmarnock] and today, and I don’t think I gave Patrick Brough the credit he deserved at full time. He was immense against Rangers and that was after putting 90 minutes in at Rugby Park.

“The other good thing to see is that there’s a real understanding starting to develop between Lewis Guy and Lee Miller. 

“Lewis got another goal and he deserved that. He has brought a real energy to what we do and the work rate from the pair of them was a great example for everyone. There are things we know we want to improve on right across the pitch but there are definitely plenty of positives for us to work with.”

Words to describe the winning goal from Kyle Dempsey were, however, difficult to find.

“That goal was out of this world – one of the goals of the season of we haven’t even kicked off yet,” he admitted. “I was actually giving him a little bit of stick at the time because I’d spoken to him at half time about understanding his role more. They got their equaliser and I thought we would probably have to accept that it was going to be a draw with it being so late in the day. 

“He then went and got himself forward, just behind the front two, and he spotted a gap in the top corner just past the keeper. The way he hit it with the outside of his right foot was unbelievable. 

“He’s another one who has given us a great canvas to work with. His appetite for playing is there and it’s now about getting him to focus on fine tuning it so that we all get the best out of him.”

“Next for us is the Orient game, so we’re looking for a good week of training in the build up to that,” he said. “We’ll make sure everyone is ready and then we’ll start to look at the style and formation we want to play. 

“We don’t want to leave any stone unturned in terms of everyone understanding their jobs. We want to take the positivity we all feel at the moment into Saturday when we have three points to play for. That brings a little bit more pressure with it and it’s up to us to handle that and get the result everyone wants.”

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