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MANAGER: They showed a fantastic mentality

Steven Pressley with reaction to the Crawley Town game

4 August 2019

United boss Steven Pressley spoke to us about the opening day victory over Crawley Town shortly after he’d watched his team dig deep to hold on to their hard-earned three points.

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“It was a fantastic way to start,” he said. “It probably wasn’t our most fluent performance but the one thing we showed was an incredible mentality. I’ve talked about the hard miles and yards that the players have done in pre-season, and they give you that mentality and strength.

“When we had to dig in through the final stages of the game, we did that brilliantly. I thought it was a terrific team performance, although it wasn’t with the fluency I know we can play with. There were flashes of real quality, but I was really proud of the team today.”

With a lot of nervous tension in the air ahead of kick off, he admitted that his starting eleven had taken a while to settle in extremely hot and humid summer conditions.

“First games of the season are never easy, especially in those types of conditions, because it was really close,” he explained. “You could see the affect it had on a number of players. The most important thing from the first game of the season is the three points, and you could see what it meant to our supporters that they got that.

“They were absolutely delighted with the team’s efforts. It’s massive to get that victory because I felt it was a game we could win. It was a difficult game, and credit to Crawley for making it hard for us.

“But a win doesn’t just give the boys confidence, it gives our fans something to hold on to as well. It’s the first step, I know that, but the first step is always an important one, and that’s why we’re pleased with the result.”

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Speaking more about what else he wants to see for the team going forward, he told us: “I didn’t think we got our high press exactly right, and there were a number of reasons for that.

“Crawley didn’t really build the play and they kicked early for Palmer for a lot of the game. It then became about second balls and that didn’t allow us to press in the way I wanted to, and I’ll want to see us get better at that going forward.

“We’re also still getting up to speed with a lot of our players. I thought Olufela [Olomola} had a great game, but he’s still got a way to go. I’ve mentioned before that Nathan Thomas still has a way to go as well, even though the efforts from both of them were terrific.

“Being honest, the first game of the season is even difficult for those players who have done the yards and miles. They find it hard because it’s a big change and a more intense game. Having said that it’s a performance I’m really proud of, not in terms of the fluency, but in terms of the endeavour and spirit of the group.

“I’m really pleased for Fela that he got the man of the match. He’s come in here and he’s adapted, but overall it’s a brilliant group. You could see after the game the unity and the spirit and I’m really excited by them all.

“I know we have a lot of hard work ahead of us and I know we will face some difficult times, but if you’re asking if I get a good feel from the group – one hundred percent!”

Two very well worked goals were combined with an excellent approach to the game which saw the Blues deservedly claim the win come the full-time whistle.

“What I will say is that we always looked a real danger on the counter-attack,” the manager said. “When we managed to break the first line of their press, we always looked like we could get something from it. We had three or four good opportunities to add to the two we got.

“They played a man-to-man type system and we tried to draw them out and play the ball down the side, or up to Fela quickly. It worked particularly well for long periods, but one of the big things was that we showed the right mentality, and that won us the game.

“There’s been a lot of hard work, and tactics help, but mentality and psychology are the most important part. Tactics allows you to talk about shape but when a ball comes into the box and you’ve got Byron Webster towering above everybody else to head it clear, that’s the mentality and that’s the desire.

“I can’t give them that, other than giving them fitness, they have to want that. To a man they all wanted it in this game.”

With one more forward slot still waiting to be filled the manager reiterated once again that he’s more than happy to play the waiting game as he waits for the striker he wants.

“We’re still missing one more and we’re going to be a little bit patient on this one,” he confirmed. “We know who we want and we’re hopeful we can get him, but we do have a couple of fall backs.

“I hope we can do that business next week but, if we can’t, we’ll just have to stay patient. It’s a Championship club that we’re dealing with. They’re selling, but they’re also recruiting, so they’re a club that has quite a bit of their own business to do, so we’re a little bit dependent on that.

“The players have a bit of down time now, but I’ll still be in constant contact with David Holdsworth, that won’t change. I don’t know if there’ll be any action in the early part of the week, but you never know. It might go down to the wire in the Championship and Premier League before we get a definite answer.”

And with Hallam Hope missing the game with a hamstring injury, he commented: “Him being available next week is a doubt. There seems to be not so much the injury, because we think that’s fine, but we think it could be nerves that are causing a little bit of discomfort in his hamstring.

“He’s going to have to go and see somebody on Monday about that. The actual tear is ok, but the concern is the nerves in the back.”

And as the transfer window heads towards its final stages we wondered if there’d been any further interest in the United striker.

“Not that I’m aware of, but football changes week to week,” he said. “If there had been I would certainly tell you, because I like to be transparent about these things.”

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