United put on an excellent away day performance at the County Ground on Saturday with goals from Joe Riley and Tristan Abrahams helping them to a solid three points and some deserved and prolonged applause from the travelling contingent come the full-time whistle.
Manager Chris Beech Gave us his reaction shortly after the game.
“To come here and play as we did against a team that’s warming up, and it’s their first home game of the season, we have to be pleased,” he said. “I saw all of the clappers on the seats when I got to the ground, they were there to help add to the atmosphere, so I told the lads we were up against everything.
“They had the optimism of the takeover, the new players, the occasion of it being on their own patch, so we had to be able to deal with that, and we were professional against it.
“I’m pleased for the supporters because they can see the hard work and honesty that goes into it with their own eyes. They can see the players playing for themselves and for each other within that.”
Having started well, and quietened the boisterous home crowd down, it was important to complement that with a goal – and what a goal it was with Joe Riley marking appearance number 50 for the club in some style.
“I’m pleased for Joe because we’ve talked to him and the rest of the lads about that kind of thing,” he explained. “We’ve been working on second balls and I’ve been asking the players not to check, or take a touch, but to trust in themselves a bit more.
“They’re similar goals to what I used to score, because I didn’t have the capabilities to do Cruyff turns and give it to somebody else. Instead of doing that, or trying that and losing the ball, just put it in the net, and Joe did that.
“He’s done that on his 50th appearance and that’s pretty good when you consider last summer he was a player, like a lot of our players, who wasn’t wanted. He started training with me in Lancashire in lockdown, there was a group of five of us, and he deserved his contract.
“He’s improving his capability of how to make a proper mark on the football league again. It was a great strike, great for him to be proud of, and I hope he doesn’t over-tweet it because that’s what Joe does. I hope he goes home and concentrates on getting ready for Port Vale.”
The forward play came almost exclusively from the Blues, but they were pegged back from a set piece strike that came from absolutely nowhere.
“We were well on top in the first 30 minutes, but when Brennan [Dickenson] went too close to the right-sided centre half they got out a couple of times,” he told us. “That’s why I switched wings for them, to try to stop that, because it was a situation like it that turned into the free kick that got them a goal.
“We should definitely have competed for the first header from it. Sometimes you can’t do anything about the second part, but you can definitely try to stop the first bit. I was upset about that, but very happy that we sorted it out before half time because we deserved to be in front.
“It was frustrating because we had them in a lock, and they couldn’t get out. We give away a cheap foul, and it’s a wide free kick to the edge of the box that’s headed back across goal. We didn’t compete that important first contact, so that’s poor.
“But, like I say, you’re not going to get everything right and the response to that was excellent.”
“We didn’t fold and we got ahead again,” he added. “It’s vital for your striker to be scoring and I’m so pleased for Tristan that he’s scored a winning goal at a tough away game.
“He works very hard and he deserved his goal. I told them they deserved to be in that position at the break, so well done, and I told them we needed to manage the game from that point forward.
“We knew chances would come to us, we changed tactic, we changed shape, and we changed personnel in position, and that’s everything we were doing in pre-season because we have to be capable of dealing with difference.”
The change of tactic alluded to was the introduction of Morgan Feeney to shore up the defence, with Brennan Dickenson already having dropped back to a deeper wing back role prior to the switch being made.
“Game management is something we talked about improving from last year,” he said. “We were always fast, attacking and exciting to watch, and we got great accolades up until Covid hit us from the likes of Quest on TV, but we needed to add a little bit more control to that.
“Over a longer journey you need to be able to manage situations better. We could see that Jack Armer had let his opponent in a couple of times in the last five minutes of the game, and that’s not like him.
“I’ve got to commend him for the first week of the season because he’s played Colchester and Sheffield United before coming here to go again.
“Jack was tired, but let’s be right, he had a great game at Bramall Lane, him and George. It was George who didn’t compete for that header for the goal, but he was beating Premier League football players in the air as a centre half on Tuesday. That’s what I want, learn from it, prepare yourself and move forward.
“Morgan was important for that last 15 minutes, and swapping Joe for Jack was important just because he’s right-footed. When passes were going beyond the right shoulder it was going to Joe’s right foot, and he could cut that out.
“It destabilised the attacks down that side, which was good for us, and it’s a shame for their lad because it looks like he could be a good player. He made a pretty bad foul and he ended up getting himself sent off.”
And summing up the game overall, he said: “Well my daughter Jasmine is 14 today so it’s a happy birthday for her. She was with us at Sheffield, and she comes to a lot of our games, so this is a nice little present from the lads for her.
“As a team we’ve got off with an away win and I did say that we want to improve that from what it was last season.
“In my opinion these lads work hard every week and I’m really proud of them. They represented themselves first and foremost very professionally and with a lot of energy and vibe.
“They played with intelligence and showed good techniques, and they gave our great supporters a lot to be pleased about.
“For them to cheer us like they did all the way through, it’s magnificent. To share that moment at the end of the game with them feels very good.
“It came from us playing good football and by being determined, and you need that mix. You’ve got to adapt and keep moving forward and make sure it brings it back to the things I keep talking about – hard work and honesty.
“They’re great values because I think the supporters, whenever we do represent them, we’re together on it. The fans were brilliant, lads were brilliant, and it means we can go home, enjoy and have a good rest before we go again.”
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