Having spoken about the frustration of an injury-hampered first half of the campaign for attacking midfielder Brennan Dickenson, we switched our focus to 2021 and his current much-welcomed run of appearances.
“I’ve said it before, but it’s a fact that there’s more to come, even though I’m really enjoying being involved again,” he said. “Mind you, it’s bizarre to have only has rehab to do to suddenly playing games twice a week.
“To be honest, I’ve never experienced Saturday-Tuesdays like this. You normally get a break between games like that, but when you’re on a run of them until the end of the season it’s very difficult.
“It’s hard to find the words to describe it, it’s crazy, it takes its toll, but we have to keep fighting, make sure we’re right and do the right things and recover. As long as we do that, we’ll be fine.
“With the last few results we have a good bit of momentum now and we have to take that into every game. It’s a cliché but we have 14 games left and it’s 14 cup finals. We have to keep our momentum going to the end of the season and play every game as if it’s our last.
“When you break it down, over 40 points is a lot to fight for still. While points are there we’re going to battle for every single one.”
So how does a player deal with such a demanding schedule?
“Every player is different,” he explained. “As you get older it takes longer to recover, I’m finding that out slowly. You have to eat the right food, drink the right drinks, do the right recovery, come in on days off if you need to, see the physio, do the 15-20 minute stretching.
“If you can get to a bike, get to a bike, even out on the road or a spinning bike just to help you recover. You have to do everything you can to help that recovery.
“With the fixtures so relentless it’s like we don’t have any time to relax. I don’t think there’s many teams with a schedule like us until the end of the season. We’re doing everything we can inside and outside the club to get ourselves where we need to.”
“Fortunately it really is a great dressing room, all the lads are sound, and we do help each other,” he continued. “Everyone gets on well, we’re spending so much time together it’s good we have that relationship within the group and within the club.
“We can just go day by day and everyone gets on with everyone and it’s a good vibe. Where it is such a close-knit tight group, everyone gets on with everyone, it helps a lot to have that changing room, that type of team that’s positive in energy.
“Everyone feeds off that, and if someone is feeling tired we start to push each other. Tuesday for sure I felt that. You always find that next gear that you need to find, no matter what it is or how hard you have to dig deep.
“If you can’t we have players on the bench who can come on and do it. The squad is so diverse we can swap and make changes and do what we do to win or see out games. Sometimes it doesn’t quite work, sometimes it does. We have to take the positives out and keep moving on.”
The game at Mansfield in midweek was a great example of that very thing.
“We were frustrated after the game because we have to see it as two points lost, but it’s a point gained at the same time,” he said. “We feel we should have seen it out and got the three points, but we didn’t and we have to take the positives we can out of the game.
“It’s another draw, another point, it’s not a loss, and we’ve got to take it into Saturday and hopefully get three points there. We obviously talk about it, and learn from it, but the demands are always high through the boys, manager and staff.
“The changing room afterwards, we knew we could and should have won the game. To work so hard to get that far into the game winning, and to almost lose it right at the end, almost feels like more of a loss than a draw. All we can do is move on to the next one and make sure we perform again.”
With the team having come through a tough run of results through February, we wondered if there had been a loss of confidence, despite the good performances that had been put in along the way.
“Yes and no,” he replied. “Confidence is knocked when you go on a losing streak, but we’ve fought through it, we’re out the other side now and we’re on a three-game unbeaten run.
“So that’s why I also say no, because we’ve played well within the games we lost, and we’re getting back to where we need to be. We’re at a pivotal time. As much as not losing those games would have helped, we’re now where we are and have to stick to it.
“Confidence is shining through and we have to go onto the next games in the right frame of mind. We have to believe, whilst the points and games are there and it’s mathematically possible, we have to believe it’s possible to get in that top three, or bare minimum make the play-offs.
“It’s been a goal all season to get promotion. To some it probably seems it’s dwindling, the fans maybe think we’re not going to make it there, but whilst it’s mathematically possible we have to believe it can be done.
“We have these 14 cup finals and we have all of those points to play for. We know we’re as good as anybody when it clicks, so you won’t find us giving up on anything.
“Look at the Bradford game. It was very important to show people that we can still play like that. On the run we were on previous to that, having lost so many games, it was needed, that sort of performance, from everyone.
“Not just myself, but everyone as a group and a whole. Now we can use that to build on.”
“Like I say, nobody is hiding the fact that the run we went through was really difficult,” he continued. “It’s probably mentally more of a test than it is physically. You just wonder what on earth is going on.
“You start to feel that it’s draining you, but most teams do hit a patch like that where nothing goes their way.
“We’ve pulled together, as we did when it was happening, and we’re on the other side of it now. It’s a good changing room and we’ve managed to pick things up just by keeping the belief in what we’re doing. What we want now is to take the next step and put a run of wins together, which we’re more than capable of doing.”
With a stinging bullet of a shot, and a tasty set-piece repertoire in his armoury, it goes without saying that one of his personal targets for the remainder of this season is to find the back of the net.
“I feel like I should have scored already,” he revealed. “The chance against Exeter, the header, the shot against Grimsby. There are others, in fact plenty I should have scored.
“It’s been one of those where I think that’s where luck is or isn’t on your side in certain situations. I feel like I’ve been doing everything right to get in the right positions and it’s not quite coming off. But goals are coming.
“I obviously like to be involved for free kicks. I don’t score every time. One in five probably, we work on things in training, we try to do all the right things.
“In a game it’s so different from the training pitch when you’ve got no-one defending or sprinting at you, no-one closing you down, there’s all the small little margins and factors you have to take into consideration when you’re doing it in a match.
“There’s a wall of huge players and a charger, and in a split second you have to change your mind on what you’re doing, who’s taking it, if we’re passing or directly shooting, so many things to think about. We work on it and hopefully it’ll pay off.”
Next up for the Blues is this afternoon’s trip to Stevenage.
“Having played against them a lot in the last few years I know it’s a tough place to go,” he commented. “But I think with the players and ability we’ve got in our squad, we can go there and get three points for sure.
“We can’t go there thinking we can turn up and just play. We’ve got to really take it to them, go and win the game convincingly. and hopefully we can do that.
“Every game is tough in League Two and this will be no different. I expect it’ll be a bit of a battle, they’re very hard to beat at the moment, but that’s a challenge we can look forward to.
“Our aim will be to win our individual battles, stick to our game plan and get the result. It’s an earlier kick off so that does change the way you prepare. You eat earlier, and your morning routine is slightly different, but you get used to it.
“It’s about preparing properly whatever time you kick off, so it doesn’t really matter in the big scheme of things. We just want to play it, play well and win.”
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