We broke into what was a busy Monday with manager Keith Millen to get his reflections on the Shrewsbury game as preparations for back-to-back away games continue.
“Generally, and I’ve said this to the players, I was very proud of them,” he said. “In possession it’s probably the best we’ve been, and looking back at the video of the 90 minutes we did have a lot of possession.
“But, as we know, it’s not always how much possession you have, it’s what you do with it. From a tactical point of view we worked out what they did and we tried to play round them, so all of the stuff we worked on in training was actually executed probably in the best way since I’ve been at the club.
“That really pleased me. We did it so well that they ended up changing their shape twice in the second half just to try and stop us from playing. That was a recognition of what we were doing well.”
“Now ... same old story, for all of that we’ve lost a game and we didn’t take our chances,” he continued. “That’s a recurring theme that’s not good. I’m not blinded by saying we passed the ball really well.
“We’ve lost the game because we conceded two poor goals, but again the response to the early goal was really positive. Certainly the head space for our players is in a different place to where it was at Northampton – it’s chalk and cheese now.
“When I look back to that first game, once the first goal went in there was no coming back. Now they’re not like that, so that’s good.
“Obviously Gibbo [Jordan Gibson] scored a really good goal, so there are a lot of positives, but of course we’re really disappointed that we’re not in the draw. I’m gutted that we lost the game, but the effort, the way we tried to play in the conditions, which aren’t easy at the moment with the pitch even though that’s the same for both teams, means that there’s a lot of confidence we can take from it.
“Seeing the lads today in training, we highlighted what was done well and hopefully we can take that into the game tomorrow.”
On the issue of not putting away some very good chances, and if that is down to a lack of confidence in front of goal, he told us: “It mainly is that, yes, I would say so. The chance that Brad [Young] had from the keeper’s mistake, I spoke to him about that today.
“Something happened in training which was very similar where he rolled it to Tris and a goal was scored. It was like déjà vu, so he told me that he looked up on Saturday and he saw the keeper wasn’t there, but he didn’t see Tristan.
“That’s nobody’s fault, if he’d seen him he would have rolled it to him. He said he looked and thought about trying to lob the defender, so obviously that’s a golden chance, and there were other opportunities as well.
“The good thing is that we’re creating chances, but we have to be braver, maybe believe a little bit more that we are going to score - but that’s an easy thing to say. We need to keep making the chances and hopefully we’ll start taking them.”
Picking up further on the subject of confidence - how does he now protect against the good feeling that was developing from taking a knock following the narrow manner of the defeat.
“That’s where the process of what you’re doing is so important, because it gives you something to fall back on,” he told us. “If you haven’t got that you’re in trouble.
“We definitely have got that in place. There’s a way of playing that the players believe in and there’s a confidence about us with the ball, and a few people have said that you would never believe where we are as a club, or the position in the league, and you wouldn’t have known who the League One team was in the two games we’ve played.
“We’ve had all those types of comments you get, which are nice, but the reality is that we are where we are and we’ve two really important away games coming now, this week, and I always had my mind on these anyway.
“We absolutely did everything we could on Saturday to win, but now my focus is really on these next two. Mansfield are in a good little vein of form, I’ve watched their game against Doncaster, and they had an unbelievable following - I think they had about 3,500 there.
“They’re in a good place, they’re confident, it’s a nice stadium and a good pitch, so it’s a game we should look forward to. It’s winnable, but we need to be at our best.”
Mention of Saturday couldn’t go by without discussing the protest, which had seen a small number of tennis balls thrown onto the pitch during the early stages of the first half.
“I wouldn’t say it affects the players, but it affects the flow of the game,” he said. “It can affect delaying the game, which obviously is a concern.
“Once the game starts you obviously want to finish it, so any sort of protest that affects the game being stopped ends up with the referee making a report, and that doesn’t reflect well on us as a club.
“I understand the protests, and the reasons, but the manner of doing it affects the game. We had to stop and clear the balls off the pitch, so it doesn’t affect the players, but it does impact on the flow.”
“I’ve said from the first day I walked in, there are issues that are ongoing,” he continued. “There are pockets that aren’t happy, which I completely understand, but when they get behind the team it does make a difference, without a doubt.
“When the fans really get behind us here it creates a good atmosphere which can only help the players. I understand what is going on, but I’ve only been at the club for a short amount of time and I know it isn’t going to be solved overnight.
“Hopefully the fans can see what the team are trying to do. They’re trying their best and giving everything, the running stats again are hitting new highs. The more we can all support them on the pitch, the better we’re going to be. The players understand their jobs, and our focus is all on winning the next game.
“Look, I try to make everything around me positive, whether that’s what we do on the training pitch or what we say in meetings.
“We aren’t in a good position, but I don’t talk about that, I talk about the positives we can take from the games and taking them forward. I think if you speak to the players they will tell you that the dressing room is in a good place, but they also understand where we are.
“We’ve got to win football matches, but the way to do that is to get an understanding and structure, then build the confidence and belief. That’s what I can affect in the dressing room and on the training pitch.
“All I can ask is that the fans understand that we’re doing that for the right reasons, to get this club where we want it to be. The more we are together, the stronger we will be.”
In the second part of this interview, on the official website on Tuesday morning, we’ll be talking to the manager about the January transfer window and the budget available.
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