United boss Steven Pressley gave us his reaction to the weekend home victory shortly after full time on Saturday night.
“That was a massive result for us,” he said. “It wasn’t vintage football from us, we have to say that, but we showed a determination and mentality that you need when you’re faced with periods like this in the season.
“We have to remember that Swindon are a really good side. We’d watched the footage from a number of their recent games and they’ve had some decent performances. I think they’re actually one of the best sides in the league at the moment.
“We wanted to play well, of course we did, but there’s no doubt that the most important thing for us at the moment is to in games. We actually started very well and I thought we dominated the opening 25 minutes.
“We forced them into making a tactical change, where they went from their normal system into a 4-2-3-1, and they tried to pressurise us higher. At that point we didn’t really recognise that had happened out on the field, and it was a period of the game when we needed to use the out-ball to get behind them.
“We’d actually worked on that as a good option for us during the week, but we didn’t pick up on that opportunity and it encouraged them on to press us. It was those things which changed the flow of the game in the first half, but I don’t think Adam Collin had a save to make, even though we found ourselves going into the break at 1-1, which was a little bit of a hammer blow.
“Their goal came from a foul we felt was unnecessary at the time, but it was a great finish. That equaliser brought a bit of edginess but that’s also something that’s natural. The second half wasn’t as strong from us in my opinion, but that was when we showed a good mentality.”
With the opening goal of the game coming from some excellent team build-up play, the manager confirmed that it was something that had also been worked on in the lead up to the game.
“The goal came from moments we’d looked to work towards, which was great for us to see,” he explained. “It was a great bit of play from Jamie Devitt after he’d found space in an area we’d talked about with him.
“It was good movement from Hallam, and a strong finish, so it was a good start to the game from us. We just got ourselves a little bit nervous and we stopped passing the ball, and that means you start to lose a little bit of belief. That sometimes happens to players when the team has been on a little wobble, as we were.
“I’m pleased for Hallam because he’s at 12 for the season now and that’s a really good return. I asked him to play through the middle for a long period, even though I do think his strongest position is coming in from the sides. He did very well considering.”
On the decision to start without Kelvin Etuhu, he commented: “As a senior player he’ll be disappointed with that, but his reaction to being dropped when he came on was immense.
“If we’re going to achieve anything that’s the type of reaction you need. A manager is only as good as his substitutions in terms of their mentality. If they don’t go on in the right frame of mind it’s never a good change. He went on with a great mentality and he changed the flow of the game in our favour.
“He was aggressive and strong in his defending and he got us back on the front foot. It was a decision to leave him out initially based on the fact I wanted to play quite an attacking team. We were at a point where a draw wasn’t good enough for us, so we had to try to find a different way to open teams up.
“That’s why I went with a very attacking midfield, even though it was probably the smallest midfield in the club’s history, so that was the thinking behind it. Kelvin responded by setting the tone for us to battle to get possession and he released the younger players who once again were outstanding for us.
“O’Hare and Slater were excellent, they played with real energy, and I’m delighted for Callum that he got his goal.”
Evident within the patterns of play were the different roles midfielder Jamie Devitt was asked to fulfil, both in and out of possession.
“The situation with Dev is that we understand how important he is to the team in terms of his contribution when we have the ball,” he told us. “Out of possession we ask him to be part of the group because of the way we play and the way we defend.
“We can’t afford to have any passengers, so he has to put in to that side of our game. On the other side we give him the freedom to roam when we do have the ball, and we spoke to him before the game about a certain position where we felt we could hurt them.
“He found that area a lot in the early parts of the game and I think that’s what forced them into a number of changes. It was good to have him back, there’s no doubt, and one of the other things I said to him prior to the game was that he was due a performance for us, with us having missed him so much.”
United were dealt a blow during the first half of the game when striker Mark Cullen stretched to make a pass only to then stay on the floor clutching his groin area.
“It was bad news for us that he came off injured, there’s no hiding away from that,” he said. “It’s too early to say where he’s at with it, but it is a real blow for us. We genuinely feel that he’s an important player, but this is what can happen with the January window.
“Sometimes the players you get are lacking a bit of fitness and, off the back of that, they can start to fatigue. That’s why we’re careful with him during the training week, but we’ll just have to wait and see what the outcome is.
“The other bad news we’ve had is that Liam McCarron is likely to be missing for six to eight weeks with his knee injury, so that could mean that he misses the remainder of the season. That’s disappointing because he’s really impressed me.
“We don’t want these players to be missing because it does leave us light in forward areas, but it’s now an opportunity for others to step up. It was good to give Connor Simpson some time because we’ve been working on aspects of his game.
“It was good to see him show more aggression and it’s step-by-step with the kid, because he’s a really good lad who wants to improve and play a part.”
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