United and Grimsby battled their way through what both managers described as a typical League Two encounter on Saturday afternoon, with a share of the points just about the right end result.
We spoke to the manager about the game shortly after full time.
“I don’t think we deserved to win today,” he said. “I think we’re talking now and the microphone’s blowing everywhere. It’s a windy situation, a League Two situation.
“There was a lot of honesty on the pitch but not a lot of quality. Our players are very technical and good, but I did say to them at half-time that I wanted more from the front three and midfield attacking two because they were off colour.
“It affects your output when that’s the case. We started great, the first 15 minutes were really good, but they get a corner out of nothing and we’ve got to clear it.
“They hit the near post, Lewis Alessandra and Jon Mellish didn’t quite make contact with the movement, and that allows the second phase to happen. Fortunately for them it landed straight on the guy’s foot.
“When that type of situation happened for us, we had somebody knocking it out of our own player’s way, never mind an opponent doing it. It was one of those days but I was pleased with the lads sticking in.”
On the importance of set pieces, highlighted again with the opposition goal coming from that source, he told us: “They’ve got some good players, they’ve got a lot of players, Grimsby.
“Don’t be kidded along that they haven’t. They’ve got six or seven lads on-loan, something like that, and a squad of 30 or 31 players. You can see coming from the bench, Matt Green, James Hanson, they’ve been standout players.
“When they come on you feel and fear it might make a difference. What I will say is that the lads had resolve, if they lacked quality today.
“But, to be fair, the conditions were difficult. The number of unforced errors was very high. If a lad brings the ball down, he makes a mistake. Clearing it down the line, it goes out for a throw.
“It’s better than missing the ball, not making the ball, not being positive, but not good enough to our standards recently.”
United again spent a lot of time in the final third, but the goal wouldn’t come as the favourable bounce of the ball just wouldn’t go their way.
“It was an afternoon when the ball wouldn’t drop for anybody,” he agreed. “On occasions we checked out instead of stepping through. Lewis Alessandra was involved a lot and he got better and worked very professionally in the second half.
“Gav Reilly made a good introduction with a bit of know-how. He got important throw-ins rather than wasting the turnover. It’s a great learning curve for the likes of Josh Kayode and George Tanner. It’s proper League two grit, and George had a good game, but it needs a different type of approach, which he showed he had.
“In the end our goal has come from an error and but we've earned that from what we’ve done in our league fixtures. We’ve not had something like that go for us. I feel injustice for Grimsby, it’s their turn to give it us, but no injustice in us taking advantage of it.”
Having got back to all-square, it looked like the visitors were going to be the team to push on to get the three points.
“I spoke to the lads at half time about the fact we weren’t sprinting like we have been,” he explained. “We needed the extra 5%, and Josh started the second half with that. The goal we got comes from him sprinting and chasing down.
“If you spook somebody, it’s funny what can happen. People will say it’s a gift, we’ve got one, received one now, but it’s the first one we’ve had in eight games. At that moment JJ changed pace better, quicker, and it’s that kind of thing which might shock somebody else into doing something a bit different, which is what it did.”
And it then became a game of what might have been as those half chances came and went.
“It’s a traditional pitch at Grimsby,” he said. “The groundsman does a great job and it’s really good how it took the rain, but we saw that it was very slippy in a lot of places.
“That’s what it is, and me and Ian [Holloway] are in agreement that it was a poor game. He’s managed a lot more games than me and I’m sure he’s seen far worse somewhere down the line.
“When we got into the dressing room I let the players share their opinion, rather than it just being mine. It was ironic really. The negativity out of the two away games, we’ve drawn both, but the negativity to come out of it for me is that we didn’t win on Tuesday.
“The negativity doesn’t come from drawing today because we didn’t do enough in my opinion. We knew this would be a tough match, but we wanted four points from the two fixtures. That was what we feel is tough on us, the fact we should have won on Tuesday, but we didn’t.
“We’re harder to beat, and that’s a good trait, and it’s something we work hard on as a team. If people don’t do that work, I don’t like it. I don’t want the players to accept not doing it. It’s important that we continue to put the work in.”
“Defensively we were resolute, but we weren’t as clean as we normally are,” he continued. “Callum Guy I thought was very good protecting at times, really good at passing, but we lacked that impetus and injection of great pace and quality that we usually have. It wasn’t quite there today.
“It’s funny. I was very frustrated driving home on Tuesday, but not as frustrated today, yet the worth of each game’s the same.”
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