Keeper Louis Gray has three appearances and two clean sheets under his belt from what has been a busy three weeks of pre-season and, with two weeks to go until the season kicks off, he spoke today about the importance of getting minutes on the pitch as he continues his preparations for the new campaign.
FANS' FORUM: Meet the manager, his staff and Nigel Clibbens and David Holdsworth30 July 2019
“It’s been good to be out there for the first three friendlies,” he said. “We’ve had three good tests against three different teams.
“Hibs were a very good team, Penrith is always a tough place to go on a difficult pitch, but I thought the lads handled it well, and Chester was a different test for us after going down to ten men.
“We were playing well before Hallam [Hope] got sent off, but it turned into a bit of a fitness exercise for the outfield lads once that happened. I would have liked to win that game, being a Wrexham lad, but it was a good workout for us all.”
“The gaffer has said all the way through that pre-season isn’t about results,” he continued. “It’s all about fitness and match sharpness.
“I’ve been waiting a while to get some minutes, but it’s been good to get three games on the bounce and give me a chance to show the fans what I can do. I think the gaffer and Craig [Wight] knew I was ready if I was needed last season, but it’s been good to be able to play in games in front of them as well.
“Pre-season is different for a goalkeeper. It’s about getting your eye in and working on your distribution and shot stopping. There are situations which happen in games which are impossible to do in training, so it’s important to get those minutes on the pitch.”
With a string of decent saves to complement the clean sheets against Chester and Penrith, he commented: “I’m feeling confident, I’m probably feeling the best I’ve ever felt during a pre-season, but it’s all about doing it on the pitch.
“Even though they’re only friendlies it’s still nice to get clean sheets. The focus is on being prepared for the Crawley game, but if we can pick up clean sheets and wins along the way then that’s a bonus.
“Being honest, the lads were gutted we didn’t win the Hibs game after being 3-1 up, but a lot of changes were made late on which disrupted the team. I have looked back at the goals we conceded against Hibs with Craig [Wight], that’s something we always do because the aim is to improve, even when you’ve played well.
“The fact is that we’ve done and tried things you wouldn’t normally do in a game. The gaffer wanted quick restarts from goal kicks, and he told me to pass it out whatever pressure the lads were under.
“He didn’t care about the result, he just wanted the game played quickly and at a high intensity. It’s unrealistic because you wouldn’t do that in the last ten minutes of a game if you were 3-1 up, but you accept that the manager is doing it for a good reason.”
The summer sessions so far, usually held in baking hot conditions, have seen the lads take on everything from sand dunes to boxing gloves, but with the focus now switching to more football-based drills.
“I actually enjoyed the sand dunes, even though it was very tough,” he said. “There’s been other good stuff as well, and Craig has got a new toy with his ball launcher now, which he’s really happy with.
“It’s been good to have a bit of variety during pre-season. It’s good to face different types of situations so it’s been really enjoyable.”
The real focus for all of the players, of course, is on August and a busy first month of fixtures.
“The next few weeks will be key as we really start to prepare for the season,” he told us. “We all know we need more bodies in, but training is stepping up every day now.
“It’s all geared towards that Crawley game at the start of August. That’s why me and Adam are working so hard for each other. We both want to play, but we know only one can be chosen.
“You can’t get too frustrated when you aren’t playing as a goalkeeper, because there is obviously only that one spot available. Last year I could have done whatever I wanted on the training pitch, Adam was playing so well that he was going to play every week.
“I’ll always be confident and patient, and I’ll always be ready for the chance when it comes.”
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