United extended their unbeaten run to six games on Saturday afternoon but it was one of those dats where very few chances were given up by either side, despite plenty of hard work being put in.
Speaking after the game, manager Chris Beech said: “It was a real battle and you’ve got to give credit to your opponent when they turn out like that.
“They had a record to chase and I’m quite happy we didn’t give it to them. We were fighting for ourselves and trying to get the three points, but we didn’t quite get there.
“They answered a lot of the questions we asked them and we didn’t get the free-flowing chances that we can create. I was pleased with how we carried on, our energy was good and some decisions were good, we just didn’t have that flair.
“We definitely contained their attacking efforts, they turned up trying to look after their clean sheet and I’m pleased we’ve kept ours, but disappointed we couldn’t edge over the line.”
A real feature of the game was the work rate in the middle of the park, which left little time or space for the more creative players to get going.
“You can ignore that and try and get another attacking player on at that point, but then you give away a man in midfield, so it depends who is more dominant,” he explained. “We tried to have that extra player with Lewis [Alessandra] coming inside and out, and we got some purchase, we just didn’t make the right decisions.
“Lewi Alessandra took a shot on from nearly 30 yards instead of playing George [Tanner] in, who would have been one against one with the goalkeeper. Instead we took the shot on, which wasn’t the best, and we’re defending a big kick up front.
“We just needed the goal. I think if we’d scored they would have had to chase us, and things change, and we would have had more space. They then can’t play five players at the edge of their box – well they can, but it’s unlikely they’d equalise if they did.
“And maybe the other way if they’d scored they might have tried to overprotect. You could see in the second half George and Lewi had that much time on the ball they were almost taking a free-kick in free play, sometimes difficult to break down, and we didn’t quite do it.”
Clean sheet number 14 of the season equals the number achieved by Jack Bonham in the 2017/18 season and by Adam Collin in 2010/11.
“If it was the start of the season I’d be really pleased with another clean sheet,” he told us. “It’s a great effort from all of the lads but we’re trying our best to win.
“If that means scoring more than the other team after you’ve conceded a goal then so be it. I’m pleased with the clean sheet, but I’d be happier if we’d won.
“The defensive unit earned it but it could quite easily be the same if George Tanner or Nick Anderton was playing, or if Rhys Bennett was fit. I’m really pleased the players are taking ownership of that.
“It’s not just the back four and goalkeeper, it’s the fact we try our best to not give opponents too much time to pick a pass. That’s a hard-working midfield, pressing from the front. We’ve been talking a lot about playing extra passes. We’ve had, according to stats, more percentage possession, but I’d rather have less and score.”
On the game overall, he commented: “It was a tough League Two game. You can see why they’ve stopped conceding, especially playing three big, tall lads at the back, they’re very committed to winning that ball.
“They’ve got two attackers that are physical and quick too. You know Joycey and they’ve got youth in Conlon, exuberance in terms of trying to win every second ball. You can see they’re fighting for the new manager, which is nice to see from afar, well done to them.
“But from our point of view, we fought as hard if not harder, and we did get some chances, but we didn’t work the keeper enough, that’s for sure. We had some quality set plays and some ins, but without the clear-cut chance.
“The pitch is dry, it does get watered before the game, but the lads are having to take the extra touch before taking your shot to make sure the ball settles. Within that a lot of chances get blocked or cut out.
“We just needed that chance. The last corner, Nick goes on, the ball falls just in front of JJ, I’m thinking he’s going to head that in the back of the net after the week he’s had, signing his new deal.
“But he didn’t get there, so it would be nice to have that, we’ve not really had that this season where something happens to us. We are still in with a fighting chance and that’s what we have to concentrate on.”
And on 500 career appearances for Lewi Alessandra, he said: “He’s a very good professional. He’s very intelligent and fit so he’s got plenty more to go.
“I think he probably took that shot on at the end because of the milestone. He usually doesn’t shoot when I want him to but he probably had that in the back of his mind. It’s fantastic and he deserves every accolade he’ll get for getting to that significant number.”
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