United boss Paul Simpson gave more insight into the four changes he made to the starters for Monday’s game against Mansfield, as he praised the impact made in what was always going to be a keenly contested fixture.
“Lewi Alessandra has been really frustrated and I decided after the last game [at Walsall] that he was going to get his opportunity,” he said. “He was very unlucky when I first came in that I chose to go with Denno.
“I didn’t know a lot about either of them, it was literally a toss-up and I went with Denno because I saw him at Chesterfield, when my son Jake was there, and I’d seen him scoring goals.
“He scored a few, we won games, and Lewi has had to be really patient. I’ll give him his due, his attitude has been absolutely first-class from the day I walked in, even though he’s had that frustration of not playing.
“I explained it to him early on why it was the case, and he took it on the chin. Monday I thought, do you know what, you’ve gone about your business so well you deserve this.
“He’s worked his socks off, and even when he hasn’t won headers he made it difficult for their defenders.
“He’s brought that one down off Mark Howard’s kick for the goal, on his chest, then he linked up with Danny to get Omari away and he thoroughly deserved his opportunity.”
And on the reintroduction of Jack Armer and Joe Riley, he added: “The two wing backs played higher than they have been before they got left out, and they were left out because they had to be rested.
“I felt that because of the results we’d had with Jon Mellish in the back three, I wanted to go back to that, and with hindsight I probably should have found another solution to the midfield problem.
“To be honest, I couldn’t think of one. I thought Danny slotted in and played well beside Brennan, and overall it was good. It worked, but we’ve had other games where it hasn’t. That’s football for you.
“Joe played the way I want a wing back to play. If he’d scored that goal when he went on that run it would have been an absolute worldie of a goal.
“He’s been banging on about wanting to play in midfield, thinking he can be a midfield player. In all fairness he’s done ok in midfield, and I’ve asked him to play a bit more centrally in training.
“I asked him to do it in the Stockport friendly and show me what he could do, but for this I felt we needed a positive, forward-thinking wing back. In Jack and Joe they both did that.
“Joe’s shattered but, do you know what, they’re all shattered. I told them to look around the dressing room because you could see they were all breathing out of their backsides, they were all tired and feeling tight hamstrings, and this and that, and that’s how you have to feel after every game.
“It’s not easy being a footballer, it’s the best life possible, but you’ve got to put the work in to be successful. Sometimes when you work that hard you get the luck you need and things happen for you.”
The change in personnel brought a return to defence for Jon Mellish, who knitted in well with Morgan Feeney and Dynel Simeu.
“It was a case of trying to pick a team that has done really well,” the gaffer explained. “Freshening it up, but going with what we know.
“It’s no slant on Rod, but Mells has done really well there and I felt bad moving him, but we had a little bit of an issue in midfield by losing Jamie Devitt and Callum Guy.
“I needed to do something just to address that midfield area. It’s an area we are short in, no doubt about that, that is going to be a recruitment issue to make sure we get players into midfield.
“I was really pleased with Mells. I wanted our outside centre backs to step in and be positive in their football, and him and Dynel did it well.”
There was a moment of concern when Jack Armer had to be replaced, but there’s hope that it’s more a case of fatigue than anything else.
“He said his hamstring was a little bit tight, and he got a kick as well, but I’m not worried about kicks,” he said. “It’s more the hamstring that you don’t want to take a chance on.
“I think it was more about fatigue because when you start working hard in games you do get tired and things tighten, and we need to make sure we look after the players as much as we can so that they’re all available.”
Having recovered from his recent illness, it was confirmed that Corey Whelan is also chomping at the bit.
“He had a light running session on Saturday, he trained on Sunday, and I just felt it was too early to bring him back into it,” he commented. “I was comfortable with the players we had available on the bench, Corey was just a case of it was too early to risk him.
“We’ll see what he’s like this week before we decide for next weekend. Obviously Morgan was fine to start.
“We did the ECG at Walsall, that was clear. Their doctor was really positive about it, and our own doctor has been really positive.
“Myself and Ross the physio had a conversation, we both totally agree we couldn’t take any chances with him if there was any risk.
“We have him booked in for some more stuff down in Manchester on Tuesday. Unfortunately and fortunately, I contacted the guy who made the phone call to me to tell me I had cancer, and he got him booked in to go and do some tests on him on Tuesday.
“We’ll get that side of it done and see where we are. But he was confident, he said he wanted to be involved, he trained on Sunday, and came through that ok.
“He was still ok today so we made the call he was going to play. He’s had absolutely no issues in the game and performed really well again.”