United’s unbeaten run went to six games with their victory over Morecambe on Tuesday night, equalling the best start to a season for 15 years.
We caught up with manager Chris Beech to get his thoughts on what had been a game that had both a dramatic start, and a thrilling finish.
“It’s good, isn’t it, and it’s part of what we want to achieve,” he said. “The first half was very similar to the Colchester and Barrow games.
“It’s really great for us because we know what we’re getting to be honest with you, with the pitch. There’s a lot of people do a lot of good things at this club that aren’t often mentioned, and Dave Mitchell is brilliant with the playing surface.
“He helped us this week because we asked if we could prepare and train yesterday [Monday] on the pitch, because the weather has been pretty poor. Nigel Clibbens tells me the water comes underneath the training pitch as well as on top of it, because of the river.
“That’s something we have to deal with, and it’s great that we’ve been working together with Dave, because in turn that helps the boys.”
“If you look back at Saturday, it was a heavy pitch at Grimsby,” he added. “Where you train and prepare affects what you, and if you train on heavy ground your legs get tired and you would normally carry that through to the game.
“Obviously with the preparation being right, because we got to train on this fantastic pitch, it meant we could put a display on, and we thank Dave for his help with that.”
On to on-field matters and despite the blistering start, which saw his team establish a two-goal cushion inside three minutes, he again insisted that he wanted more from a team which is already working hard.
“To be honest with you, I’m disappointed that it was 2-0 at half time because we still have to be more ruthless with our opportunities,” he told us. “Lewi Alessandra had a couple of chances, even though there was a great save on one of them, but there was one where he could definitely dink it when he tried to go round the keeper.
“JJ Kayode got in early doors and he had a touch, and he was a little bit too slow as he tried to get a shot off. These should definitely be goals, and we’ve got to keep working that way. Other players had chances, and it’s important that we keep trying to put them away.
“We’re creating good openings, we’re working hard, and if we can get that part of it right it’s going to be really exciting. But isn’t it good that we’re demanding this after having scored three times.
“It’s about progression, it’s about pushing ourselves, and it’s about making sure the last few minutes can’t be nervy because we’ve already sorted it out.”
One player who has found a knack of finding the net this month from all kinds of situations is Jon Mellish, who took his personal tally to six goals from seven outings.
“He can’t stop at the moment, which is great,” he commented. “I think the other boys are supporting it as well, and for me all three lads in midfield were excellent.
“There were two formations we thought Morecambe would play, and they went for the second part of what they played on Saturday. We’re adaptable in the way our players play, so JJ was wider and Lewi played up top, and that allowed Joe Riley to play in a different position.
“We matched up in midfield to get a stronghold and all three of those lads are very competitive. I thought Joe Riley was excellent in everything he did and if he hadn’t been booked I wouldn’t have subbed him. That was me making sure he’s available for Saturday really.
“Callum Guy was strong and he works really hard. I knew all about him and I was amazed when Blackpool let him go. I’m pleased for him but he’s doing what we know he can do.
“These boys we’re talking about have stepped up and they’re keeping other very good players out of the team. We have one who has just been called up by South Africa and he’s having to wait on the bench at the moment.
“We do remind them all that it’s very hard to win your opportunity, so don’t give it up too easy once you’ve got it. We’ve seen good performances and I suppose a bit of it comes from us believing in what we’re doing.
“It’s providing a little bit of support to individuals or the group if people are after you, which happens. From there you get the other ‘c’ word – not coronavirus – confidence.
“People told me back in the day that I wasn’t good enough, but you find yourself and suddenly you’re in the Championship and scoring goals or being involved in other big moments. It doesn’t half make you play a lot better.
“We’re seeing it now with Jon Mellish and he’s a great lad, he’s got his feet well and truly on the ground. If we support people and create the right environment it tends to mean they have the opportunity to flourish. That’s the environment we want.”
Having taken a grip of the game, the Blues found themselves with a more slender lead to protect after Yann Songo’o had atoned for his earlier error with just 11 minutes left to play.
“There was a period between our goal and their goal where there was a little bit of nervousness that caused a few slices and missed clearances,” he said. “There was a straight long ball right through the middle and we’re thankful that their centre forward stopped running for it, because we missed the first header. That could quite easily have been worse for us.
“I think Phillips got through on one, and Paul Farman made a superb save, but other than that we defended well.
“But we conceded on Saturday from a corner that hit near post and we’ve conceded today from the same thing. I asked JJ to move slightly across for the second one, and he cleared it, but we’ve got to be better at that.
“We need to understand that even though they got their goal in a situation like that we still had the lead. There’s no drama, we’re still in driving seat, just be clean in your work. There’s no reason to rush at clearances or to mistime anything, just do what you’ve been doing.
“Then, at the risk of repeating myself, be more ruthless at the other end. I want us to show more composure in that final third and get more shots on target. Make sure every pass is for a purpose, play for a purpose, if you’re crossing - do it with vigour, and if you’re trying to score really take the shot on.
“Don’t half do it, really go for it, and if it goes wrong it goes wrong. It’ll be a goal kick at worst, and what’s wrong with that. Let’s really get better at taking those shots on earlier, and if we do get that bit right I’ll be very excited ... but we haven’t quite got there yet.”
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