As is now customary, we kicked off our weekly press conference with an injury update, and it was better news for Ryan Edmondson, Morgan Feeney and Owen Moxon, who have all had time on the training pitch this week.
“They’re closer to being fit, but it’s still debatable if they’re closer to starting a game this weekend,” manager Paul Simpson confirmed. “We’ve had some good signs with those three lads, but the decision between now and Saturday is whether or not it’s too early and how much we can involve them.
“I’ll be looking at that between now and Friday morning, when I name the team, but if they’re not ready to start then maybe they can be utilised on the bench.
“You have to remember that if they make the bench they also need to be ready to go out there for us if we suddenly need them really early in the game. They need to be able to do the job for a long period of the 90 minutes, so there are a few decisions for us to make, which is good, I like that.
“We’ve also had a good reaction from the players who were involved at Stevenage last weekend, where they know that the level we saw for the first 35 minutes isn’t good enough. They know it wasn’t acceptable, so we’ll see what comes this weekend off the back of that.”
Knowing the character of the three players in question, there’s little doubt that they’ll all be indicating that it’s all systems go as far as they’re concerned.
“I don’t really take what they say into consideration, if I’m going to be really honest,” the gaffer told us. “I take more of a longer-term view because I want them available for as much of the rest of the season as possible.
“If it was the last game of the season they’d play, it’s as simple as that. It isn’t, we still have a load of games to come, and it’s more important that we get them right now.
“Edmo has been nursing his injury since Workington, early in July, and Mox felt it in the Morecambe game. Morgan’s happened without any warning whatsoever.
“If you have players who have been nursing it for a while, you need to get them right and get it put to bed. Hopefully when they are back, they’ll have a sustained run in the squad.
“That’s the way I look at it because yes, I want them available, and I want to give our home supporters something to cheer, but I’m also being very wary of getting them back into it too soon and then not having them for an even longer period.”
“It would be really easy for me to say, yeah, let’s win now, but I don’t think we can take that approach,” he continued. “It will make my job easier to have more players available, but it isn’t just about the short-term.
“I want as many available for the longer period as possible. That said, I want to win games. I don’t like losing in the way we lost last weekend, so it’s up to us to have a reaction.”
Along with players returning from injury were the very good contributions from defenders Duncan Idehen and Paul Huntington.
“Paul is definitely a consideration for Saturday, he’s had another very good week of training,” he confirmed. “Again, at the risk of repeating things, we’re having to be really careful with him because it’s a longer-term view.
“He’s signed a year’s contract but it’s a year that could become two or three depending on appearances. We’re not looking at a short-term fix for him, there’s no need, we need him right.
“Once he gets right and he’s ready to play, I want him to be playing 35 to 40 games a season, so if we have to keep him back for one more game we’ll do that. We’ll make that decision between now and Saturday to see what’s right for us and what’s right for him.”
“That shows that even with the injuries we’ve got at the moment we’ve still got decisions to make, because everyone who is fit wants to be out on the pitch,” he continued. “When they are getting their chance to play, they’re doing a job for us.
“I’ve been really pleased with how quickly Duncan has settled in and he’s really keen to learn. I’m pleased with how Jayden has adapted to coming into the EFL for the first time as a senior player.
“Sonny is another who is working hard to get into the team, Jack Stretton is the same. I think they’re looking at the likes of Fin Back as someone who has taken his chance when he’s got it, so the big challenge for them is to make sure they do when they get an opportunity.”
Another who has hit the grass in determined mood is Taylor Charters, who appears to have put the hamstring problem that first surfaced at the back end of last season behind him.
“Taylor is very close to being involved,” he said. “I think it will more likely be the cup game on Tuesday night when we give him his first taste of it, but we’ll see how he goes.
“We’ve got another training session before we have to make a decision on the squad. He’s been out quite a long time so it’s maybe a case of introducing him more slowly.
“I’m delighted to have him back, and once we get Joel Senior back as well I think we’ll have senior players competing for every position on the pitch, which can only be good for us.
“Taylor had his run as a wing back when he went out on loan, and I’ve already told him, this so I’m not saying anything out of turn, but he didn’t have a great game at wing back when I went to watch him play for Gateshead towards the end of last year.
“I certainly saw enough in his physical capabilities and in his left foot to think there’s a player in there who can do a job for us.
“That was a little bit of my thinking when we were considering bringing another left wing back in, sometimes you look elsewhere for players when you might have one right under your nose.
“I felt it would have been wrong to go and bring somebody in without giving Taylor a chance. He got injured through no fault of his own, and I just didn’t feel it was right. I hope he proves to me he's worthy of a place in the group and he’s able to go and challenge Jack Armer for that spot.”
And it was good to see Brennan Dickenson around Brunton Park this week, albeit with a swollen knee following his successful ACL operation.
“Bren has had his surgery and he’s back in with us now,” he told us. “I think the worst part is probably waiting for it to be done, because you don’t know what’s going to happen.
“It went really well and the surgeon was delighted with how it’s turned out. He now has a start point and he can look to where his end point is, which is a good thing for him.
“I went into the gym before I came in to do this interview and I was watching Josh, Joel and Tobi getting slogged by Geoff during their rehab. They’re all working extremely hard and they’re coming on really well.
“There’s lads back out on the grass as well so we’re starting to see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll be delighted when it’s a really bright light.”
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