United boss Steven Pressley gave us his reaction to the Saturday’s 2-2 home draw with Salford.
Speaking first about the fact we weren’t talking about a victory in his post-match interview, he said: “We started the game really well, really positive, created a number of a really good opportunities and found ourselves 1-0 up.
“Then we had a 10-minute period that cost us dearly and it’s been a little bit the story of us in recent weeks – we have to eradicate these mistakes in these moments, because as we said in the dressing room there, we are so close to being a really good team, but we have to eradicate these moments, and also convert the chances we created.
“But nobody can come away from the game not saying what a great performance from Carlisle that was. That’s real football, the type of football we want to play – fast, intense football, attacking football, and I think we certainly got that.”
With the Blues having spurned some really good chances to put the game to bed, they relied on a late wonder save from captain Adam Collin to ensure the boss wasn’t discussing a defeat come the final whistle.
“Adam made an amazing save,” he agreed. “He wasn’t called on to make that many today, but that’s how it’s been in the last number of games. Good goalkeepers earn their corn by their concentration. His save was an amazing save.
“Again, it was a moment we should have defended better, but we can see what we’re trying to get to, we’re showing signs, we just need to put – like Barnsley – the complete performance together. Today was 75-80 minutes of a really good performance. There has to be a complete performance and we’ll keep striving and looking for that.”
Looking at the real positives from the performance, he commented: “Our midfield players controlled the game. We worked on a manoeuvre creating a double-10 position, where Fela would come off the game and we’d get the wide players running through. It was really working to good effect.
“We’re pleased with that, but when you see all this happening, and the domination, we’ve got to win the game. I don’t want to be sitting here every week saying how well we played. We created a lot of chances and we haven’t won the game, because ultimately football’s about winning.
“But, we can see we’re improving, we can see good signs, so we shouldn’t be disheartened by that. We should take a lot of confidence, but know we have to do those small things better to win the games.”
“We played initially our normal system, 4-3-3,” he explained. “The only thing I tweaked was during the five or ten minute spell when they managed to get a little grip of the game. We go into what we call recovery position, but ask Scougall to take a more aggressive position, which helped us.
“Fela created what we tried to do, the double-10, to outnumber them in that position, draw the centre-back out, to allow us to get Hope or Thomas through. It really worked well. But all of that means nothing if you don’t win, and that’s the reality of football.”
The benefit of the tweak to the tactical approach was seen with just seven minutes on the clock when Olufela Olomola expertly guided a Nathan Thomas into the bottom corner.
“That was a great goal,” the gaffer said. “The moments we’re getting to work on certain players are few and far between just now, it’s going Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday, and we’re not getting a lot of time.
“But one thing I’ve spoken to Fela about in recent sessions is from the link position, to immediately think only about getting in the box to score. We got that today. It was a terrific ball in and a great header.
“Hopefully we’ll see improvements in him going forward and it’s great for him that he’s got his second goal. I thought he was really good again. He just ran out of steam a little bit and tired, but we’re not getting enough time to work with players on the physical aspects because it’s such a turnover. I see some good signs and now we have to go to Rochdale and a similar type of mentality and attitude, and win the game.”
Having taken the lead, the Blues were quickly pegged back when the Ammies broke quickly from the back.
“We’d worked on second balls, our positions, we’d tucked our wider players in a bit but we switched off,” the manager said. “We didn’t watch the play and got caught on that. Rather than getting into our positions we didn’t look at the game, we got caught on that from a passage of play. Normally they do kick and we normally would set up to win those seconds, but we switched off and it was costly.
“I actually thought their first goal was a foul on Byron. There’s when Byron’s running back. He catches Byron’s trailing leg. The referee said to me it was minimal contact – but minimal contact’s still contact and it affects the incident. Byron is tripped by minimal contact. The penalty which put them ahead … I need to see it again.”
And having gone behind from the spot kick it became important to see a reaction, and the home side didn’t disappoint.
“I thought Stefan Scougall was amazing,” he commented. “Some of his work ethic and play was terrific. When we were 2-1 down, before going in at half-time, you’re looking for a bit of inspiration and we got that.
“It’s his second of the season. It’s really pleasing for him. We need goals from every area and he’s chipped in already with two. Obviously the disappointment was that we missed chances in the second half.
“I thought all three should have been goals. Let’s not be kidded here. I asked Sorensen and he said he had to score, 100 per cent. Hallam arrives, and it’s got to be a goal, there’s no doubt about it.
“And Scougs must be a goal, one on one, take a little bit more composure and score. These are three massive, massive moments in the game where on reflection we should have won it comfortably.
“I don’t think the misses come down to anxiety, or anything like that. I don’t think you saw that in our performance. The one thing is, credit to the players, once you have lost a couple of games it can be easy not to play the way we want to play, but we got better at that. I think everyone in the stadium, I would imagine, enjoyed the attacking football that we played.”
With Hallam Hope the ongoing subject of transfer speculation, we wondered is his miss could be attributed to the uncertainty of the situation that has surrounded him, with a fresh bid from an unnamed club having been turned down as recently as Thursday.
“No, absolutely not,” the manager insisted. “He came off the pitch and apologised, but there’s no need to apologise. I made a million mistakes when I was a player. It’s normal.
“It’s about going back there and scoring the next one. That’s all. Hallam’s very passionate about this team. There’s no way he didn’t work hard today, I thought he gave a good account of himself and his work deserved a goal.
“He tired in the second half and maybe fatigue is the reason he missed. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt! It was good to see him back. He’s a crucial player for us. I’ve spoken to Hallam – he knows I want to keep him here, I understand the situation, he knows he’s got a manager that likes him a lot, there’s no issues.
“If I’m being perfectly honest, I think it’s been hard for him, his head has been turned a little bit. But, if he doesn’t go, I’ve got no concerns about his focus being here.”
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