Joint assistant manager Lee Dykes gave us his reaction to the friendly victory over Blackburn Rovers on Friday evening shortly after the full time whistle had blown on what had been a very enjoyable game to watch.
“It was a pleasing performance,” he said. “There were a lot of periods and patterns of play which we took into the game from the training ground, which was good to see.
“You can sometimes read too much into a game during pre-season but I thought we played very well in this one. There was quality in all three of our goals and the way we started the game was similar to the way we finished last season, with a physical presence and good approach play.
“We’ve made some additions and a few changes through pre-season and everyone has adapted well. The goals we’re scoring suggest that everyone has an understanding of how we want things to be done.”
“Blackburn are a very good team and the players they had on show are very good technically and physically,” he continued. “The shape they played posed us a different kind of problem to what we’ve seen in recent games and it gave us a good workout. I fully expect them to be up at the top of League One so we can take positives from what we did.
“The manager now has a very good headache with players showing that they all want to be involved. All of them are in good shape mentally and physically and Keith knows he can call on any of them at any given time. That’s a good position to be in.
“We’ll have had 37 preparation days by the time we get to next Saturday and we’re well equipped to get going. It isn’t just about the friendly games we’ve had because we train at a high tempo as well. The manager demands that of the group and we feel we’ve prepared ourselves in a good way.
“There is an argument that we could have added one or two more games in there, but we’ve got a behind-closed-doors next week and that will help with where we want to be come the end of the week. The games start to come thick and fast in August so anything you do has to have that in mind.”
Speaking about a first appearance for the club for striker Richie Bennett, he said: “It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for Richie because it all happened so quickly for him. He’s a player who has developed late in terms of coming into the professional game and he’s somebody who should have made the step up before this.
“He did very well at Barrow last season and he’s been a consistent scorer for a number of seasons. It’s now all about adapting to the new environment and he’s already started the process of doing that. He’s taking it in his stride and we think he’ll be a great addition.
“We’ve spoken to him and we’ve told him he just needs carry on doing things the way he does them and he’ll be fine. He understands that it isn’t all about him; it’s about his role in the squad and the team, and about playing a part for the group.”
And speaking about the ongoing hunt for more new faces, he said: “We’re still trying to make things happen. That’s something we don’t talk about in detail until we get things done. I can reassure the fans that everyone at the football club is working tirelessly to further strengthen the squad.
Our aim is to build a squad which will help us to have another successful season ...
“It doesn’t take a lot of working out where we do need to strengthen and hopefully there’ll be a few more ins this week. Our aim is to build a squad which will help us to have another successful season and there are a couple of targets where we are actively speaking to their clubs at the moment.
“How long is a piece of string on all that? The window is open through August and we have all of that time to not panic and to do the right thing.”
One of the more noticeable substitutions on Friday night was young keeper Morgan Bacon getting the full second half as he replaced Jack Bonham during the break.
“It was a precaution after the meaty challenge Jack took in the first half,” Dykes explained. “It was a chance to give Morgan valuable game time so he’ll have benefitted from that a lot.
“Morgan is in a development phase of his career and it would be wrong for us to expect stupid things of him at this stage. That’s an area we’ve looked at throughout pre-season and we’ll continue to do that.
“Two of the other three young lads got pitch time as well and they’ve all got different abilities. We played Jack Egan and Jordan Holt in areas they aren’t used to because they’re willing lads and I thought they did very well.
“We had a trialist in who we felt did well for the last 15 minutes. These lads are invited in for a reason and it’s then up to them to show us what they can do. He’ll be staying with us next week because he’s done well with us for some time now.
“We like him, he’s impressed us and that’s why he’s still with us. It’ll be one we look at in more detail next week and Keith will make his decision on what he wants to do with that situation when he’s ready to do so.”
Missing from the starting line up last night were Kelvin Etuhu, Jason Kennedy and John O’Sullivan.
“John would have loved to have played against his old club,” he commented. “He’s progressing well, as is Jason. Our medical team are managing Jason’s situation because we don’t want to rush any player back before they’re ready.
“We have to look after our players as much as we can. With him, we want him to be fit for the season and not just for one game.
“Kelvin Etuhu wasn’t involved because we tend to see that when players come in from different clubs they find it to be a different environment with different demands and training patterns. He’s adjusting to that and he’s a seasoned professional who knows his body.
“He picked up a little knock in the Halifax game and we’re all looking after that with him. It isn’t an injury I would say was significant and, as I say, he knows himself better than anyone.”
With just a week left to go until the season opener against Swindon, he also admitted that nerves do a play a part in the run-up to the big kick off.
“You always get a bit of nerves,” he admitted. “That comes with it being the first game of the season. We try to keep it a calm environment for the players as we prepare them as fully as we can.
“There’s a lot of hurt still in that dressing room because they feel we could have done better than we did after getting into the position we managed to get to last season. We have a number of players who want to put that right this time.
“We have to be aware that other teams in this division have been throwing money at it because they want to get out of what is a very tough division. We have to manage the expectation that surrounds us but we’re also confident that we have very good players who can beat any team on any given day. I think we’ll be giving it a very good go.”
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