Defender Tom Parkes came back into the starting line-up on Saturday and put in a typically full-blooded performance as he helped his side through to the second round of this season’s Emirates FA Cup competition.
We spoke to him about the victory, and his return to the fold, shortly after full time at the weekend.
“It was a great game, but it was disappointing for us [as defenders] in that we conceded two goals,” he said. “Other than that, I thought the boys were fantastic. We got at them when we got the ball down and we played some good football.
“We’re all delighted for Richie Bennett again, he finished two great headers, and it was a great goal from Hallam [Hope] as well. We didn’t have too many chances in the game, but we took the ones we did get. That’s good for the strikers because they can build on that, and hopefully they’ll get more.”
From a defensive point of view, he added: “It didn’t look like anything was going to come through us in the first half. We got it just about perfect and they struggled to deal with us when we got it on the floor.
“It was obviously different in the second half, but we dealt with it in the end, and that’s what matters. We know as players that we conceded two poor goals, but we dug in and worked hard and we came out of it with a great result. That shows the character we have in the dressing room.”
Speaking more about the mood on the pitch when Oldham clawed it back to 3-2, he said: “It’s a difficult one because you start to ask where it is you’ve gone wrong. That’s when it becomes even more important that you don’t switch off again.
“There was still a bit of time for them to get back at us, so it gave us a big job to do. Like I say, we all worked hard and we put our bodies on the line to make sure we got the win. The lads deserve a pat on the back for the effort they put in.
“In terms of home results, hopefully it’s a turning point. We need to build on it and make sure we carry it on into Wednesday and Saturday. Our away form has been brilliant this year so adding good home results will help us to get up the table. Wednesday night is another home game we’ll be looking to win, and then again on Saturday, so that we can keep it going.”
With Gillingham to look forward to in the second round of the competition at the beginning of December, he commented: “It’s a competition where you want to get as far as you possibly can.
“The further you get the bigger the clubs involved, but you can only take each round as it comes. We’ll enjoy each game and we’ll keep trying to keep the run going.”
Saturday’s start was his first since his sending off at Crawley last month, having served a four-game suspension, and he admitted that it was good to be back.
“I won’t lie to you, it’s been very difficult,” he said. “I’ve made sure that I’ve worked hard on my fitness through it all and I’ve done extra running and things like that with the gaffer. That’s kept me on top of things and meant I was able to slot back in.
“To be fair, the boys have played really well, and it can be difficult to get back into a team when that’s the case, particularly with the squad we’ve got. Gary Liddle has been man-of-the-match and all sorts, but you want people to give you that kind of challenge.
“I felt comfortable playing with Clint [Hill] before the suspension but Gary is a great player and he’s done a fantastic job. I loved every minute of playing beside both of them at the weekend and I thought we did well.
“It’s a system I’ve played in before and it’s a good one. It gave Oldham problems and that’s all you can ask for.”
“Going through a suspension is even harder when you don’t agree with it happening in the first place,” he commented. “It’s one of those things where you just have to get on with it. I got my head down and it felt good being involved again.
“There’s a good feeling through the squad at the moment because we believe we can do anything. We don’t look at which league our opponents are in because we know if we prepare properly we’ll be a match for anybody. The play-offs or even better still has to be our target overall because we’re good enough to do it.”
“Personally, I’m just enjoying my football again,” he concluded. “I don’t want to hold onto the past, but I had a really tough season last year and I wanted to get that behind me.
“This move has given me an opportunity to show everybody what I’m capable of doing and I think that’s happening for me. I’m with a great bunch of lads and the manager has been brilliant, and I just want to try to get better as a player.
“Playing alongside Clint [Hill] is helping massively with that because he keeps talking and he demands the best from everybody. I’m noticing the little things he does in games and, if I can, I’m going to try to put it into my game. If he’s doing it, it must be right.
“I do chat with him now and again to see what he thinks of things and he’s giving me good advice all the time. For me, the more I speak to him hopefully the more I can learn.”
Click HERE to watch an interview with Tom Parkes on iFollow United now.