Striker Lewi Alessandra bagged the winner for United in their pre-season friendly against Wigan Athletic on Saturday afternoon making it two goals in just three games – and both very similar finishes into the bargain.
We caught up with at full time to get his thoughts on what has been a tough few weeks of intense training.
“It was good today, and always nice to score as a forward,” he said. “Scoring is a good habit to have. I’d rather wait and get them in the league, but you want to be hitting the back of the net whenever it is. It was nice to do that again.
“Chances are coming and you worry as a forward player when that isn’t happening. I could have had more goals, being ultra-critical, but it was a good workout. It was a good result although we know in pre-season that’s not the be-all and end-all, it’s about the performance, fitness, getting people through without injuries, and the result is a nice added touch.”
Having had last Saturday’s fixture against Workington called off, he admitted that he’d been looking forward to getting out there once again.
“We didn’t get that game and I missed Saturday’s 11v11 in training, and I just wanted to play more, there’s no substitute for playing games,” he told us. “It was good. Every week we train, and don’t forget it’s a long time we’ve been out. Although we’ve been trying to keep ourselves fit, there’s nothing like playing games. Every game you can get is beneficial.
“Although we’ve not played many games, and I haven’t done a proper 90 minutes yet, we’ve been doing a lot in training on 11v11 type stuff, which is similar to a game anyway. I’m feeling good and the more you play, you completely forget about the fact you’ve missed a lot of months and start to feel more normal again.”
With a lot of new faces in the squad, he told us: “It’s a great dressing room, I think we’ve made some good additions, that’s what you want to do – start pre-season and grow through it and be as strong as you can be as people get to know each other. I feel we’re doing that nicely.
“It’s a shame we can’t have like a day out as a team to get to know people more, but anyone will tell you it’s hard not to be able to see their family and friends with what’s been going on. It’s been a strange year. We’re knitting together nicely and I’m looking forward to starting the season and seeing where it takes us.
“The fixtures are out now and it’s nice to see a bit more light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s be honest, two or three months ago we had no idea when we were going to play again. Okay, it’s not going to be with fans and that’s disappointing for everyone – it’s been a disappointing year not just in this profession, it’s been tough – but it’s nice to have a date we can work towards.
“It’s nice knowing in 10 days, two weeks, whatever it will be, we’re going to be playing competitive football. The sooner the better regarding fans coming back. Whatever percentage it is, at Carlisle we can hold a lot of people in the ground, so hopefully we’ll be able to get the numbers in, and I’m sure the fans will be itching to come back.”
But with so many forward thinking players in the group he’s more than aware that there’ll be a battle for that starting shirt.
“That’s what you want,” he insisted. “You need to know that if you’re not doing it, you’re not going to be playing. It always gives you that added incentive to know you’ve got to put it in, be at your best, be a professional by putting good performances in.
“I think we’re all going to have to be more professional than we’ve ever been. I’m the other side of 30 now, I don’t feel 30, which is weird, but you have to recover differently and things of that nature, especially when it’s Saturday-Tuesday games.
“We know we’re in Carlisle and are travelling a long distance away. It’s going to have to be about ultimate professionalism. There are times when games come at you like that, you can have a bad result then pick up 7 or 9 points from your next three in the space of a week. It can definitely be a good thing at times.”
As for his targets this season, he said: “I just want to be playing well, and playing in a team that’s doing well.
“Everyone has their own personal targets, I know what mine are, I’m not going to be unrealistic with it. I’m a forward player and want to be hitting the back of the net. Hopefully I can do that on many occasions this year.
“It’s really good just to bein and around the lads and stuff. In lockdown, it’s been a tough year for everyone. If I didn’t have my dog I’d have lost my marbles.
“It’s just good to be in the changing room environment. Physically as well as mentally, it helps. It’s such a good group, it’s just good to be back. It’s been a tough year for everyone. I’ve never not played a proper game of football for four or five months ever, since being a child. It’s been weird.
“But I think with the programmes we were given, we’re all quite good professionals and we’re quite a young team. Young lads are naturally quite fit. We’ve come back in good shape to hit the ground running.
“We were playing games the first week back which is usually unheard of. It’s been tough, but good, and we’re in a good place.”
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