Striker Lewis Alessandra got off the mark for the Blues on Saturday when he smashed home a stunning close-range volley to put United in the lead against Cambridge at the Abbey Stadium.
It capped off what has been an impressive run of performances for his new side since his January arrival, and he confirmed when he sat down with the press earlier this week that he’d felt recently that it was just a matter of time before the big moment came along.
“It was good to get my first goal last weekend, but I did feel like it’s been coming,” he said. “I know as a striker I’ll always be judged on goals, so it was nice to get that off my back and hopefully it’s the first of many for the club.
“I don’t think I’ve ever celebrated a goal from seven yards like that before, but there was a lot of relief when I scored. It wasn’t like I’d just put one in the top bin from 25 yards. It makes it even better that it put us on our way to a good three points.
“Sometimes you can have too much time to think about what you’re going to do, so when it’s instinctive like that the stuff you practice during the week in training all kicks in and you just do it.”
“To be fair, the corner got put into a good area then Aaron [Hayden] contested for it. Harry [McKirdy] hit it well, but somehow it managed to drop for me on the half-turn and I managed to get my shot off.
“I was delighted to see it fly into the side netting. I knew I definitely wasn’t offside because someone was stood next to me, even though it sort of looks like I was on the highlights.
“On a personal level, I got off to a flyer this season and I think I had five goals at the start of November for Morecambe. I was then in and out of the team, so it feels like I haven’t scored in ages. I think all of that came out in my celebration, and I’m just pleased we got the three points to go with it.”
Having almost heard the roar of joy from the terraces as the ball hit the back of the net, we wondered what that moment was like for a player when he sees the ball cross the line.
“Scoring a goal is one of the best feelings ever, especially if you score and go on to win the game,” he confirmed. “The first few seconds after you score are special, and with it being my first goal for the club it does make it that little bit extra-special.
“I’ve come close quite a few times and been a little bit frustrated that I hadn’t scored. Like I said, forwards get judged on whether they score goals. I think fans who come to games will have seen I’ve been playing ok, but looking from the outside people might just look at the fact that I’ve played again and not scored again, and maybe think I’m not doing that well. Luckily for me I’ve had people scoring around me, but it’s my turn to do that now.
“I feel like I’ve been playing ok, but like I’ve said, forward players get judged on goals. Especially when you’re playing down the middle, if you go a few games without scoring people start to question your contribution to the team.”
Having appeared to take the business off settling into his new club in his stride, he commented: “I think the gaffer said it was a no-brainer to sign me, which is always nice to hear.
“I’ve worked with him before so I knew what he thought of me, but it is always nice to have the backing of your manager. It’s even nicer to have that backing from your fellow players and the fans as well, so I’m sure if I keep scoring and putting in good performances I’ll be working towards doing that.
#GOODVIBRATIONS: Design a surfboard and win tickets for the Leyton Orient game!9 March 2020
“I think all fans appreciate hard work. Some days it isn’t going to be your day, but if the fans see that you’re trying to do the right things and working hard they’ll get right behind you, and I think that’s been the case so far. I just need to add more goals to my game now and keep improving to make sure we continue this little unbeaten run we’ve got.”
“It’s been really easy to settle into the club and into the team,” he added. “There are no grey areas with the manager, we know what he wants from us. I think I’ve played every game since I arrived, we’ve had a couple of injuries, so I’ve played in a couple of different positions as well.
“That doesn’t matter because I’m really enjoying it. I’m just happy to be playing and putting a blue shirt on every weekend. I was actually speaking to my partner at the weekend and saying how much of a good decision it was to come here.”
Pushing him more on the different positions he’s played through his first month-and-a-bit with United, he said: “I’m happy to play anywhere, but I prefer being in the centre of the pitch, to be honest.
“I’ve probably spent half of my career playing in wide positions, but I don’t think it really suits the way I move with the ball. I don’t feel like I can run at people the way Nath [Thomas] and Harry [McKirdy] can, for example, and they’re both exceptional at it.
“I do prefer central roles, whether that’s as a 9, 10 or even an 8. I’ll always do a job for the team and give 110% wherever I play. I thought myself and JJ [Josh Kayode] were going to get a good little partnership going, but it obviously wasn’t to be because he picked up his injury.
“I don’t think he was aware of how severe his injury was, and he finished the match and scored a goal as well, but then realised he had a grade two hamstring tear. I’m not sure if that makes him a bit of a warrior or a bit of a numpty!
“He looked really bright in the games he did play and I think he’s back this week, so hopefully he’ll come back and hit the ground running. Overall it does feel like a totally different team to the one I came into.
“It’s just about keeping those positive feelings around the place now. When I came in everything was a little bit up in the air and I think we were four points above the bottom spot and looking over our shoulders.
“We’ve managed to get some decent points on the board and I think the gap is 17 now. We won’t take our foot off the gas, but with the rate we’re picking up points we should be fine now. It’s a different atmosphere, and I’d like to think it’s a better atmosphere for the fans to enjoy on a Saturday as well.”
And back-to-back home games coming up could help to propel United even higher up the table, with confidence levels at full within the dressing room.
“Colchester are always there or there abouts at the end of the season,” he said. “It feels like for the last few years they’ve been in the hunt for the play-off places, and that’s the case again this year.
“They’re a big physical side, and we know it will be a test, but I fancy us at home against anyone when we’re on our game. It’s another one for us to enjoy.
“The club are doing the ticket promotion for the Leyton Orient game as well, so that’s something else for us to look forward to. I’m not sure who picked the picture of me to go on the poster though, the facials on it are ridiculous!
“It’s all a bit of fun, and it’s all about trying to attract a bumper crowd and continue that feel good factor. Hopefully we can get the numbers in, put on a bit of a show, and make people want to come back.”
But with the player having made such a positive impact with his professional approach and performances, there was only one question we really needed an answer to.
“I would love to be here next season,” he replied. “Obviously my current contract is only until the end of the season, but I’d be delighted to stay, if I’m wanted.
“That’s obviously down to the club, but I’d sign tomorrow if I was offered something. I’m sure if I keep working hard and doing what I’m doing then I’ll put myself in a good position for that maybe to happen next season.”
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