Graham Kavanagh on the Morecambe game
United progressed to the last eight of the northern section of this season’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy competition on Tuesday even with a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over League Two high-fliers Morecambe.
We spoke to manager Graham Kavanagh about the win before the Wednesday morning training session.
“It’s a great way to win a game but a horrible way to lose,” he said. “I thought the players showed great character because it is a pressure situation. We’ve worked hard in recent weeks to keep our run going and this result is a big part of that.”
“I spoke to the players before the penalties and asked who wanted to take them,” he added. “Credit to the lads because they were all very well taken. Sean O’Hanlon was one of the first to put himself forward and his was probably one of the best.
“I’m delighted for the group and for the fans, because this was a victory for them. It’s one of our shorter away trips but it was a Tuesday night and they were there in great numbers. They’ve followed us yet again, which isn’t easy, and to do that right in front of them is fantastic. It’s good to send them away with smiles on their faces.”
“The longer you go in this competition the more you can sense and feel the importance of it,” he told us. “Every game you win is another step closer to Wembley and it can get very exciting very quickly.
“It probably wasn’t a classic performance but it’s one we came away feeling pleased with,” he told us. “We didn’t play in the final third as well as we would have liked but it was a gritty performance and we were very good defensively.
“We didn’t really come under too much threat so we’re very pleased to be in the hat for the next round.”
“I think everyone talks a lot about momentum in this game,” he added. “On our pro-licence course last weekend we talked about how you create it, how you carry it forward, how you improve it and what exactly it means.
“I’ve just said to the lads that if we win five, six or seven games then don’t be happy with it and don’t accept it. We should always look to be going forward because winning games is a difficult thing to do.
“Confidence is high at the moment and we need to capitalise on that as much as possible. We need to take what we’ve done in the last five games into our next one at Oldham and hopefully that will be a springboard for us into another victory.”
“I thought we looked comfortable overall in this game even though they did come at us towards the end,” he commented. “We’ve worked on our fitness and there’s a feeling at the moment that we’re always in with a chance. Long may that continue.”
And on team selection, he said: “We wanted to try and freshen things up and give a few people an opportunity to show what they can do. I was also aware that we had three players on yellow cards [Berrett, Noble and Thomson] and we didn’t really want them to miss the next game. That was a consideration, but we obviously don’t have enough bodies in the middle of the park to cover every situation.”
“It’s also about consistency,” he continued. “In all of our games so far I have picked the most consistent performers and I have told the lads not to come and see me, if they aren’t involved, and start telling me they aren’t getting an opportunity. They get an opportunity every single day in training.
“We look at every session we do, as a staff, and we talk about who we think performed well and who could have done better. It’s important that they all step up and, to be fair to them, they are all doing that.”
“We can all look forward to the draw on Saturday morning now,” he concluded. “We’ve had some good times in this competition and if we do things properly it could be exciting for us again. We want to keep our good run going for as long as possible and hopefully the fans will be smiling a lot more as we go on from here."