United boss Steven Pressley spoke about a week of intense preparation for the home game against Exeter City following the disappointment of the postponement of last weekend’s away game at Crewe.
“We gave the players Saturday and Sunday off and my intention initially was to go to watch Cheltenham play Cambridge,” he said. “Unfortunately that game was called off as well, so I ended up going to watch Northampton play Colchester.
“That was actually a good game and Colchester played well on the day. They showed that they’re a very good side and they obviously have ambitions, like ourselves, to gain promotion this season.
“It was good for me to see them first hand, because we do have them coming up in the next few weeks, so that was pretty much what my weekend was taken up with.”
With seven new players through the door during January, we wondered if he felt that the weekend call-off had been a blessing in disguise.
“I don’t think it’s a benefit at all,” he insisted. “I wanted to play the game on Saturday because when you’ve had positive results, and it’s given you a bit of momentum, you want to keep that going.
“It wasn’t to be, but it’s been quite a gruelling schedule over Christmas, so maybe the weekend was nice for the lads to help to settle themselves back down, but ideally we’d have played.”
“With that in mind we’ve trained intensely on Monday, Tuesday and today,” he told us. “We’re in very good spirits and with Exeter coming up at the weekend the focus is very much on preparing for that.
“Both Gary Liddle and Mark Cullen have trained with us and both have come through the sessions really well. Gary is in a better position to Mark in terms of his fitness, but they’re both making good progress.
“The good thing is that neither of them have reacted, even on a training pitch that’s been a little bit heavier than normal, so that’s really positive for us and them. It means we have a really strong group for the weekend and that’s fantastic for us because competition for places is vital at this time.
“With the additions we’ve made we’re very satisfied with where we are now, and we’ve seen that competition has already been created with the intensity levels we’ve had in training.”
“That intensity level has gone up a level or two because of the competition for places is in almost every area,” he commented. “There’s a challenge to each and every player because they fully understand that there are no guarantees about their position.
“That in itself creates good performances because it’s up to the players who hold the jersey to make sure they continue to wear it.”
Speaking more about the dynamics of the group at his disposal, he said: “We’re a team that’s very effective on the transition and I think that’s one of the real strengths we have.
“We have very quick forwards and energetic midfield players, so that’s great to see. We have to keep our focus on that, and we shouldn’t try to become something we’re not.
“We all have an idealistic way that we’d love to play, but the biggest things is that you play to the attributes of the players you have at your disposal. We have to keep concentrating on that and we have to keep doing the things we’re good at.
“There are players in the building now who fit our strengths and who have different qualities within that. That’s why the competition is so intense just now. Everybody wants to play and those who do get the shirt know they have very good players breathing down their necks.”
Saturday brings the first in a run of three games in eight days, but the United boss insisted that his focus only ever remains on his next opponents.
“I only ever prepare for one game,” he revealed. “I don’t even make considerations for who will be playing at Crewe on Tuesday because, for me, the most important thing is our next game.
“My first mentor was Alex Smith, who was in a similar role to David Holdsworth here when I was in my first job at Falkirk, and he always told me to never look beyond the next game. He was a very wise man and he gave me a lot of advice, and I’m very grateful to him for that.
“He hammered it home that the next performance was the one that mattered, because that’s the one that could change everything.”
And with a real buzz around the city following the recent run of eight wins from the last nine games, he said: “Our responsibility now is to give the fans the football they want to see so that they want to keep coming back.
“That means we have to do our work in a way where they see a team that’s passionate, and we have to build up trust with our supporters. The squad we have now understand that, we’ve seen that with the results, and hopefully we’ll see it continue forward from here because I know the fans of this club are desperate to get behind their team.”
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