United boss Steven Pressley gave us his thoughts on what had been a hard-earned victory at Vale Park on Saturday afternoon as his side overcame terrible conditions and a stubborn defence to eventually go on to claim their win.
“I’m really proud of that performance,” he admitted. “This is a difficult place to come, the pitch wasn’t ideal, and we were playing against a team who are fighting for their lives. It was a really professional performance.
“In the first five minutes our distances weren’t correct, but we got that right and we were very compact and gave away few chances throughout the game. On top of that we always looked a real danger on the counter-attack.”
“When they had the player sent off just before half time it was important that we didn’t lose our discipline, and I spoke about that at half time,” he continued. “I told the lads to keep going about their business in the same manner because we knew the game would open up and the chances would be there for us. Thankfully it went that way, and credit to the players for that.
“It was a case of being patient and I said to the group that if we worked to the aspects we’ve worked on, and do the basics right, then it’s impossible for us to lose the game. That doesn’t mean you always win it, but I felt it would be impossible for us to lose.
“They did all of that and more, they’re a great group of players, but we need reinforcements in, there’s no doubt about that.”
On the difficulty of a breaking down a ten-man unit which is determined to stay tight, he commented: “They were hard to break down in the second half, and we know we’re more effective as a counter-attacking team, so with the sending off the game changed.
“We had more of the ball and it meant we had to find different ways to break them down. That was why I brought Arthur [Gnahoua] on at half time, because I felt that was what we’d be faced with, and Liam [McCarron] is very much a counter-attack player. Arthur is a player who can dribble and find space in those tight areas, but we had to be patient.
“H [Hallam Hope] came up with a great finish, or so he tells us, and it was a really important goal. Any result away from home is a really positive result. I said prior to the game that it was one we had to win, and I meant that, and the players showed the supporters that we’re serious about the challenge in front of us.
“At this end of the table there’s always a degree of expectation but it’s a better pressure than the one that comes at the bottom end. The lads seem to be handling that well, and we’ve kept two clean sheets in the last two games.
“When you defend in the manner we did, you always have a chance of winning games of football. It’s not just our defenders who have got us that clean sheet, it was a real team effort.
“In the last minute we had H back in the corner trying to block crosses, and Gez [Anthony Gerrard] winning big headers, and that’s what it takes to win games.
“I’m really pleased for our supporters, they travelled in their numbers again and it was important to reward them with the right result.”
One of the talking points from an incident packed first half was a booking for Hallam Hope when it looked to all intents and purposes that he’d been chopped to the floor by the sliding legs of Vale stopper Scott Brown.
“From the angle I was at, and the fourth official agreed, the incident with Hallam and their keeper looked like a penalty kick,” he told us. “I’d have to see it from the referee’s angle, but it certainly looked like a penalty from where I was standing. I’m not going to say I’m right, but it looked like a stonewall penalty from where I was.
“The tackle for the sending off was on the far side of the pitch, so I couldn’t see it properly, but the letter of the law is such now that if it’s a tackle where you aren’t in control and your feet are off the ground then it’s a sending off. It would be wrong for me to comment on this one because I didn’t have a clear view.”
And with just under 500 United fans in the away end cheering on their team, he said: “It’s a big win for us and it sends our supporters home feeling very happy.
“This is the type of result which gives you a chance of going on and gaining promotion. When teams in the past have gained success, these are the real tests they’ve faced and come through.
“It’s ok when the conditions are conducive to flowing football, but this was a difficult pitch and horrible conditions. We stood up to all of the challenges of the game and we got the result.
“You have to remember that Port Vale are fighting for their lives at the moment and they’re also working very hard for their manager. We had to deal with that and we also had to do things properly.”
The only blemish on United’s recent copybook was the defeat at Northampton three games ago, but the response from that has been just what the doctor ordered.
“Credit to the players because they have to bounce back from disappointments and, trust me, with 16 games to go there will be disappointments along the way,” he said. “It will always be important how we respond to them, and I’m very pleased with what these players have given me so far.
“There’s still more to come, but we have to remember that only half the job is done. Our mindset has to be that we aren’t going to give this position up.
“Part of that is looking after the players, and I’ve given a number of them Monday off. The rest will train because we can’t neglect their levels of fitness.
“A lot of my time will be taken up over the next few days working hard with David Holdsworth to try to get deals over the line.”
We’ll have more from the post-match press conference on the official website over the rest of the weekend as the manager discusses potential transfer window activity.
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