United boss Steven Pressley gave us his reaction to the incident packed away defeat at Valley Parade on Saturday afternoon.
“I thought the opening 30 minutes was probably our best 30 minutes of the season,” he said. “We were terrific. Our counter-attack play was really strong, our shape was good, we controlled long periods and we felt really comfortable with the start we’d made.
“They equalised, then the game changes with the sending off of Jack Bridge and we had to change a number of things. After half-time I thought our attitude was amazing, a never-say-die attitude, and we were always in the game, always looked like we could get something.
“Then they had the sending off and the game changed again, we grew into it again and we had a couple of good late opportunities. I felt in the second half our attacking play in the final third could have been better, because we got into some really good areas, but in terms of the effort of the group, no complaints.”
The afternoon appeared to be going well for the Blues as they edged their noses in front courtesy of a good finish, his fourth of the season, from Olufela Olomola.
“It was a brilliant goal,” he agreed. “We’d been showing signs of that in the early stages. Jack Iredale acquitted himself really well today, and we were delighted with the opening 30 minutes. But how a game can change within 10 minutes!
“Again, one was a set play and we have to do better on that moment. That’s the frustration. I sit here and say I’m really proud of their efforts and the way they went about it for long periods, and with 10 men we were exceptional in our work ethic, but we lose this game not because of these factors but because we don’t defend a set play properly.”
With Bradford having equalised, the afternoon was made more difficult when midfielder Jack Bridge was shown a second yellow card just after the half hour.
“I thought Jack had started the game brilliantly,” he told us. “I was disappointed because he’d twice broken clear in the midfield and twice been impeded, but Jack didn’t go down when he could have on a number of occasions.
“To go down, probably the referee would have shown the yellow card. You’re getting penalised for being honest in football. Sean Dyche has spoken about this. We need to penalise the players that are throwing themselves down and commend the players like Jack who stayed on his feet.
“I’m really disappointed the referee made the call, because I don’t think it was a sending-off. I think it was Jack’s first foul since he’d been booked, I thought it was an extremely harsh decision that affected the outcome of the game.
“He apologised to me in the dressing room, he feels sorry about the situation, but these are things that happen in football and you have to adapt. He’s a young player who is still learning and it is just one of those things. We’ve checked and he’ll be available for Tuesday, but not for the Oldham game on Saturday.”
Having come under mounting pressure through the final stages of the first half he admitted that it was good to get the team into the dressing room for a much-needed team talk.
“When I spoke at half time I reminded them that for 30 minutes it was the best we’d played,” he explained. “I also spoke about the fact that set plays have to stop costing us. I spoke about the shape of the team in the second half and we tweaked a couple of things with that in mind.
“We tried to play with a box because we were really causing them problems between the lines, and I felt we had to get into those areas and attack them from there. That was what we tried to do in the second half, keep in the game.
“The longer the game would go we knew we’d get more opportunities, that’s what happened, we just didn’t manage to find the breakthrough. You can feel the atmosphere here, the support, big clubs like this, it’s one of their advantages but we handled it really well. I’m disappointed for the players, I thought they gave everything.
“Obviously they scored the third goal in the very last seconds, but we had to go for it, we threw more bodies forward, we just couldn’t find the breakthrough. Nobody likes losing, especially myself, but there’s certain types of defeats you can take better and today was one of those where I see everything apart from a couple of moments that we must do better in.
“We’ve talked about those and I still felt in the final third our quality could have been a little bit better. I’m frustrated of course but I think in recent weeks we’ve seen real improvements and that’s an important factor. We’re disappointed we didn’t win but I feel we’re beginning to see real green shoots in our performances and we’re beginning to move forward.”
When quizzed if he feels the team will start to move away from the bottom reaches of the division, he said: “We can’t hide from where we are and we have to say that at this moment in time the league position is a fair reflection of how the first part of the season has gone.
“I understand the grumbles from the supporters, that’s normal, and as managers we have to deal with the comments and what comes from social media. I never get up or down about these things.
“I have a job to do and I meet a lot of people who are hugely supportive of what we’re doing. I need everybody to get behind us because we’re working tirelessly and that’s because I want to make these supporters feel proud of their club. I’m confident given time that we’ll get there.
“Only time will tell if those fans who are being critical of me will change their minds, but what I will say is that I think we’re a team that’s growing. The last five games prior to this one was play-off form, so we are progressing.
“People will tell you that the real ingredient for success is continuity and we haven’t had that. I’m seeing some really good signs and I’m really pleased with how the players are going about the aspects of some of our play. I know there’s a lot of work ahead of us but it’s a great group to work with.”
And on a 500-game career milestone for midfielder Mike Jones, he commented: “It says everything. I talked about that in the meeting this morning.
“To play 500 games is an incredible achievement, and I think it very much typifies what he is – a player that looks after himself, prepares properly, a great professional and a great example for our young players in the squad.”
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