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INTERVIEW: The signs are really positive

30 August 2016

Midfielder Luke Joyce on current form and competition for places

Midfielder Luke Joyce spoke to us about the excellent away win at Barnet and about his own form as the first month of the season draws to a close.

“It was a great win on Saturday,” he said. “I thought our first half performance was very good. Everything was right from the possession we had and the football we played to the chances we created.

“We came away disappointed that it was only 1-0 and not three or four in the end. At a place like Barnet they throw the ball in the box and they have some big players, so sometimes you can’t help the fact that something might drop for them.

“We knew it would be a dangerous score line but we defended well, we blocked shots and the lads at the back all won their headers to help us to grind out a good win.”

“The good thing is that we’re showing both sides of what we can do at the moment,” he continued. “We’re going to tough places and playing some good football, but we’re also putting the work in. There’s a lot of confidence around in that dressing room.

“I’m enjoying my football a lot at the moment. I was disappointed not to start the first game down at Portsmouth, but I got a chance against Port Vale and I like to think I took that. It’s now about keeping my place in the team and performing well. Hopefully I can keep doing that personally and it will mean I’ll be contributing to the team as well.”

On the competition for places, particularly in the midfield areas, he said: “It’s good because it spurs you on and it makes you up your game. I think it has to be like that. You know even in training that there are three or four lads who want your position and that’s why you want to impress and do as well as you can.

“When you’re playing on a Saturday or a Tuesday you know for a fact if you aren’t at your best you might not be in the team for the next game. That can only ever be good for everyone.”

And on his blossoming partnership with Mike Jones, he said: “It’s good being beside Mike because we’re fit lads and we like to get up and down the pitch.

“The way the manager likes to play is for us to be showing for the ball and, if we aren’t making passes, he wants us up the other end of the pitch hunting for second balls and helping the strikers. Part of the game these days is that you need to be fit anyway so we’ll keep going the way we are in as many games as we can.”

One of the noticeable features of the season so far has been the way pre-season optimism has been turned into eye-catching football on the pitch.

“I think it was massively important for us to turn the buzz that was around into performances,” he agreed. “Good players came through the door and they are lads who have had experience of getting success in the past.

“That’s one thing, but you then have to pull it together at your new club and get it out on the pitch to do it week in and week out. I feel that we’re doing that and we still think we can improve and get better. The signs are really positive.

“At the moment we’re going out onto the pitch and expecting to win games and to play well. I remember having that feeling at Accrington when we steamrollered everyone to get into the play-offs. It feels exactly like that here.

“If you can take Derby to penalties on a Tuesday night and then win comfortably at Barnet a few days later it shows that you have a very good squad.”

Looking back at the record-equalling penalty shoot-out, which saw Joyce successfully convert twice, he said: “I’ve never been involved in anything like that. Anfield last season is probably the closest I’ve been to it. It was one heck of a thing to go through. 

“I was third to take a penalty and I was just delighted to get it out of the way and score after what happened at Liverpool last year. I put the first one in and I walked back to the centre circle thinking that I’d done my job. 

“As the penalties kept going on and on I started to think – hang on, this is going to come round to me again here! I had to start to think all over again about where I was going to put it because I’d smashed the first one down the middle. Thankfully it went well and it was nice to put them both away.

“Obviously my last penalty before that was the one I missed at Anfield. It doesn’t sit in your mind, but when you come to another penalty shoot-out you do think about your last one. It’s nice to have been able put that to bed.”

Looking ahead to tonight’s Checkatrade Trophy meeting with Oldham, he said: “They’re a League One team and it’ll be a tough game. I think we can look forward to testing ourselves against another very good team. It’s another opportunity to put a marker down and show people how good we are.

“We’re the only team in our division who are unbeaten and in a couple of drawn games – the likes of Cheltenham and Cambridge – we could quite easily have turned them into wins. You could even say we’re a little bit disappointed not to be in a better position than we are now, but we’re doing well and we’ll keep working hard to get better.”

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