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MANAGER: There's a real frustration that the chances aren't being taken

Keith Millen with more Mansfield reaction

8 December 2021

United boss Keith Millen gave us his reaction to the Mansfield game shortly after full time on Tuesday night.

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“Mansfield started really well, they played a shape we thought they might do,” he said. “They did it well because they overloaded us in the midfield area.

“The number 10 and centre-forward were dropping back in midfield and that caused us problems in that central area. When they get passing and moving they’re a dangerous side, but we knew that.

“We tried to prepare for that, but we couldn’t get to grips with them. Them scoring after six minutes is a tough blow. The problem was that when you’re struggling to get control of the game, what you find is when you do win the ball back, you’re all over the place in your head as well.

“We didn’t have that calmness when we won the ball, which we’ve had. It’s like a Catch-22. Throughout my career I know, when you can’t get to grips with the opposition, when you do win it, you’re sort of all over the place. It was like a hot potato. We couldn’t keep the ball.

“The few times we did, we opened them up, and that’s something we’d talked about. They’re a team for me that are good in possession, but they did leave themselves quite open when we won it.

“After that first 20 minutes I tweaked it a little bit, we got to grips with them more, and then we started calming down a little bit. Once we were a bit calmer in our heads defensively, we were calmed on the ball.

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“Then we started passing it better, and we got a few opportunities.”

“We spoke at half-time about the need to be a bit more aggressive, a bit more on the front foot, and we were excellent,” he continued. “We had crosses, so many incidents, and how we’ve not scored is just beyond belief, isn’t it.

“There’s a real frustration there because when you’re playing well and working hard, and not getting the results, that’s when it’s tough to take. But that’s the situation we’re in. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves.

“We’ve got to remember we’re doing a lot of good things. Something has to change, I don’t know what it is, they’re doing so many good things, the fans were great, travelling down here tonight, clapping us at the end, we really appreciate that.

“But I said to them after the game, I don’t know, what can we do that might spark us. No-one means to miss chances, they’re all trying to score goals, but it’s just not happening yet.

“I was right behind Jordan Gibson’s shot at the end there, and it’s in the top corner. All of a sudden the gust of wind lifts it onto the bar - you just think, wow, what have we got to do.

“The reality is we’ve not scored enough goals all season, we’re trying to, and I’m just trying to think of something, whether it’s in the dressing room or amongst ourselves to spark it and give us that little bit of luck that we’re lacking at the moment.”

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Speaking more about where that spark will come from, he commented: “I would be a lot more concerned if we weren’t playing well, because then you know you’re in trouble. But we are playing some good stuff.

“We’re creating chances, we’ve had one off the line, it hit one of our players on the line, and Brennan was unlucky, someone fired a cross in, and when it’s going for you they fly in. He had no time to react and it’s hit him.

“There’s lots of situations like that at the moment. We’re getting balls in the box, we are creating chances, which is good, and it’s been like that for a while. We just can’t finish it. That’s the frustration in the group, because they do realise we’re doing a lot of good things.

“To help to try to find that spark I’ve been trying to rotate the forwards, saying go on, 60 minutes, give it your all and hopefully something might fall for you, and if you get tired I’ll bring someone else on.

“I was trying to think of something different. Jon Mellish has got a knack of scoring goals and arriving in the box, so I thought let’s push Jon up and something might fall for him, and he might smash it in.

“We’re trying to think of everything. We continue to do that. Hopefully we can come up with a solution. The good thing is that we know we’ve got a group of players that are trying everything.

“We’re picking up little injuries here and there that doesn’t help, that seems to go against you on these sorts of runs. We have to keep working, keep believing, keep trying to create chances and maybe just try and demand more from each other.

“Maybe add an edge somehow on the pitch that might just upset someone or create something different.”

On the goal conceded, he told us: “I can’t remember the build-up to it. They got it wide, looked like they overloaded us at the back post, but they were doing that well in the first 10 or 15 minutes.

“They were overloading us on the sides, we struggled to come to terms with that, that’s why I made the slight change after 20 minutes. Our response was good, once we settled down, we finished the first half better.

“When that cross came in we had players a little bit unsure, should I be there, shouldn’t I be there, and from memory we probably left it for each other, maybe. I’ll look at that and try and correct that.

“I thought we were the better team at the end of the first half. When you think about how many chances they had, how many times did Mark Howard make a save? Not many I can think of, but that’s the reality of where we are.

“As long as we keep doing what we’re doing, something will have to change, because it does hurt. It hurts because they’re a caring dressing room, which is what you want.

“They’re a quiet dressing room, because they’re really upset and sad because of all the work they’re doing. Sometimes you maybe just need someone or something just to spark a bit of anger maybe on the pitch, or the dressing room, that might get a reaction on the pitch.

“When I was playing if someone had a dig at me, I took it in the right way and maybe got up the other end being so angry you push someone out of the way and score. Something like that that might change our mindset a little bit. They’re doing everything else that I’m asking of them.

“The bit that really frustrates me is when you compare our chances to what the other team are getting. That’s very hard to take, but they say luck evens itself out. Hopefully it’ll start going our way.”

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