The return to the starting line-up for midfielder Jack Bridge, who was just one of many to give a potential man of the match performance on Tuesday night, highlighted once again the level of competition for places amongst the current United squad.
Speaking about what is a healthy situation, with defender Byron Webster added back into the weekend mix following his return from a two-match suspension, assistant head coach Gav Skelton said: “Players want to be in this team and they’re frustrated when they’re not. Look at Tuesday, Jon Mellish has done well in the last few games and he was unfortunate to miss out.
“He understands it, but he’ll be determined to get back in the team. It’s the same for quite a few of them. Ryan Loft wasn’t in the squad, Jack Iredale came on, and he hasn’t had much game time lately, and they’re all desperate to do well so that they can make the manager think about starting them for the next game.
“When players are pushing each other like this you look at the squad and you can think we look quite strong. Starting with Jack Bridge and Josh Kayode made it look fresh.
“Jack is excellent on the ball and he looks after it really well. Kayode gives you something different, he’s a willing runner, a big lad. Even when he doesn’t win his headers, he gives Inniss a problem by not letting him get a free go at it. He gives us a way we can stretch the game and get in behind the back line.
“Nathan Thomas came back after his injury and that’s good because he gives us another option. On his day he’s a matchwinner, and he knows that. He’ll be desperate to get back in the team, along with the others, so it’s interesting and we’ll have a lot of things to discuss for Saturday.”
With the 40-point barrier now broken, he said: “Our aim now has to be to get as high up the table as we can. You’ve got to look at that mid table, that’s got to be the ambition.
“There are nine games and 27 points left, so there’s still a lot to play for. We don’t just want to pull away from the teams below us, we want to catch the teams above us. It’s vital we continue to try to do that from now to the end of the season.
“Winning builds a bit of momentum, and you have to remember that we have people who will be playing for contracts. That gives them a lot to play for individually. Any game you play, first team, reserve game, there’s always people watching and lots at stake, none more so than getting three points and as high up the table as we can.”
Tuesday night saw central defender Max Hunt pick up the InvestAcc man of the match award, which was also backed up by him winning the Twitter vote for the same accolade after the game.
“As a young footballer coming into a club, you’ll be up and down, and he’s probably had every emotion in the space of four days,” he said. “If he continues to play the next 10 to 15 years that’s it, you’re up and down, up and down, and it’s how you handle it.
“There is a lot to work on with Max, which he knows. He’s gone from under-23s this year to play at Aldershot, where he did well, to league football. He’s got a long way to go but he has shown signs of improvement, and should take real credit for the part he played in getting the clean sheet.”
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