New signing Lewis Alessandra picked up the man-of-the-match award following his debut on Saturday and United boss Chris Beech spoke afterwards about the performance from the lively forward, who had a hand in the build-up to both of the goal earning set-piece situations.
“What we saw from him is what he does,” he said. “It’s important that he recovers properly now, he hasn’t played for a while, but I know he can look after himself.
“It was a good performance from him and he took great responsibility for the first goal. That pass to put Lofty through doesn’t happen without that instinct and bravery. I want to see players doing that.
“I was really pleased with how he led the line. He ran so hard and it’s a great example for the younger players to look at, for Loft, and other players who aren’t playing. If they look at the effort, it’s about that kind of thing that helps with winning football matches.
“It’s not about thinking you’re doing it, you’ve got to physically do it, and he did, and that’s why we signed him.”
Also making his debut was left back Nick Anderton, who opened the scoring on the day with a crunching finish.
“He played just over 60 minutes in a reserve game on Tuesday but he told me it was fine and that he was ready,” he commented. “I just love his tackling and I love the way it’s a man out there.
“I love the way he’s hard to beat, the way he’s committed to his opportunity. He made some good runs in training for set plays and more in the game. He tells me he’s only scored two goals with his right foot, would you believe, he certainly scored one today.”
With the team having defended well following the early second half setback of a Walsall goal, he said: “I was asked if we backed off in terms of our performance, but we didn’t, you can’t help a goalkeeper kicking long and putting it down your throats.
“If a team doesn’t pass the extra pass you can’t press it. Walsall go more direct, which in turn means we have to defend more. I was pleased with how our midfield held down the middle of the pitch, was displeased with some of the risks our mate Elliot [Watt] took, but at times he played some great passes too. But it’s about being a team and the lads were a team today.
“Defensively as a back four we looked balanced, but there’s some physical elements to each player in that. I’m not trying to discredit the past, but I want us harder to be beaten, and the back four we saw there are harder people to beat, and they’re playing in their preferred positions.
“While we’ve got to this point, recruiting Nick Anderton, etc, we’ve done pretty well in terms of competing and stopping the defeats. I thank the lads for being adaptable, and we might have to adapt in the future, you don’t know what’s around the corner.”
On the absences of Josh Kayode and Harry McKirdy, he told us: “Josh was due to start. Ryan [Loft] to be fair ... I had a good word with Lofty yesterday [Friday] because he wasn’t responding well to the fact that he might not start.
“It’s amazing what happens in football. I had a good half hour with Lofty after training. Normally he’s last off the training ground, but he was first off this time because he wasn’t happy.
“I don’t want players happy if they’re not playing, but I do want a physical and mental response. Your opportunity can come from anywhere, like it did for him. I get a text at 7.30am on match day and everything changes because a player isn’t available.
“Josh was going to start, it’s a shame, he was due to make his debut in front of you guys, but he couldn’t. He came to see the doctor and we’ve had to send him back and he’s in bed now. Hopefully he’ll be right for Tuesday, we’ll see.
“That isn’t good when we have a plan, but it’s very good that when the plan has to change it’s supported. When I spoke to Lofty he came into the room feeling low and went out of it feeling great.”
“With Harry, he’s injured,” he confirmed. “Apparently at Villa he had a pull on a tendon in a hamstring. He told me he’s never played as many games in his whole career, he’s had a couple of loans where he’s never really been used.
“He felt he was too young when he went on loan but, of course, these are good experiences for him. It’s probably just a catch up of his first stresses of being a proper football player, playing every week, being responsible, affecting a game, and he’s been doing that.
“They love this word fatigue, but we have to get on top of it and make sure he’s fit to go, whether it’s Tuesday, Saturday or whenever it is, because every game is so important.”
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