United’s assistant manager Tommy Wright spoke to us about Tuesday night’s defeat in the Checkatrade Trophy at the Stadium of Light shortly after the full-time whistle had blown.
“I thought the first half was even and there were chances at both ends,” he said. “We moved the ball quite well at times and we looked quite slick. We were dangerous on the counter-attack, and I think Ashley Nadesan is finding his legs now.
“He’s had a run of games and he’s looking fitter and sharper. He scored a good goal, so there were definitely a lot of plus points from the first half. He’s the type of player who needs to sprint and he does a lot of running, so the only way you can get that match sharpness is by playing games.”
“We all enjoyed watching the first half,” he agreed. “It was a good game and we wanted to entertain our fans. At the end of the day we came here to win, which we didn’t do, so we’re disappointed about that.
“We matched them technically in the first half and we looked sharp on the ball. In the second half I think one or two of them who haven’t played regular games found it difficult, because Sunderland moved the ball quickly.
“We looked tired, we got drawn out of positions a lot of the time, and it was a tough second half. You might get away with it in League Two, but they moved the ball quickly and found us out a bit.
“Adam [Campbell] had a good chance just before half time which could have changed things, but if we’re being honest we got overran and outplayed in the second half. We told them at full time that if they want to play at a higher level they’ve got to learn from nights like this.
“We gave the ball away too easily in the second half and we didn’t have the energy we had in the first half. Those two as a combination mean you’re going to find it difficult against a good side.”
On positives to take from the game, he told us: “There are positives to take from the first half but we’ve got to learn from the second half as well. We looked loose, we lost our discipline and our ability on the ball wasn’t great. If you play like that against good sides you’ll get found out, and that’s what happened.
“It was a test for the lads who haven’t been playing, and it was a fitness test for them as well, especially in the second half. The likes of Gary Miller, Adam Campbell and Regan Slater haven’t had regular games and you could see they found it difficult in the last 25 minutes or so. Their legs were tired, and Sunderland made them run with their ability on the ball.
“The lads are all disappointed that we lost, but we know we need to win the game against Stoke to make sure we progress in the competition. I think this is a great competition, I’ve won it at two different clubs, and for lower league teams it’s a great chance to get to a cup final.”
On a first senior start for teenager Liam McCarron, he told us: “Liam isn’t in the squad because he’s 17 and we think it looks good. He’s there because of his ability.
“We think he’s going to be a good player so we always planned to play him tonight at a fabulous ground against good players. I thought in the first half, especially in the first 30 minutes, he looked lively and did very well. He needs to make better decisions, but he’s only 17, so he’ll learn that. We think he’s quite tough mentally which is why we put him in, and we wanted to see how he would react to playing in a stadium like this.
“We were able to get some minutes for Jack [Egan] and Sam [Adewusi] as well but, as I said before, they’ve all got to take their chances. As coaches we like working with players who want to learn and get better, whether they’re 16 or 46. They must have that drive to be better and want to play at the highest level.”
And on players who weren’t included in the travelling squad, he commented: “There were lads who didn’t play who had knocks, but hopefully they’ll be alright for Saturday.
“There are little injuries, and we’ve obviously got Hallam [Hope] away with Barbados, but it gives other players the chance to come in and impress. They’ve got to take that chance and give the manager something to think about when it comes to picking his team.
“Anthony Gerrard had a tight calf after Saturday, which is why he wasn’t involved. There are one or two carrying knocks, and if it had been a league game it might have been different, but we didn’t want to risk them.
“Benno [Richie Bennett] has got a better chance of being involved at the weekend than Jamie Devitt has. Danny [Grainger] is close as well, he’ll be stepping his rehab up at the end of this week, then will hopefully be back in training next week.
“The news about Dan [Watson] leaving came out of the blue, so we’re disappointed with that because it obviously left us short tonight. We’ll fill that void and try and get the best man possible, because the keepers have been doing well.”
Click HERE to watch an interview with Tommy Wright on iFollow United now.
Click HERE to see a clip from this interview on our YouTube channel. Follow the same link for more FREE content right from the heart of the club.