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Club News

MANAGER: I wanted experience out there

Paul Simpson on Saturday's team selection

28 February 2022

Team selection on a Saturday afternoon always brings about discussion, and sometimes even heated debate, as fans and pundits alike pick over the relative merits of the formation and the players who have been asked to do the job.

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The game at Orient threw up a surprise for us all with a return to defence for Jon Mellish for the first time since the Crawley away game in February 2020, where he was converted to an attacking midfield role.

And he certainly didn’t look out of place as the manager adopted the ‘square pegs’ approach he’d talked about in the lead-up to the weekend away game.

“I think the big thing I was thinking about was to get as much experience out there as possible,” he revealed. “The staff were talking about a game six weeks ago where there were only 600 or so appearances in the eleven.

“We had over a thousand appearances between them out on the pitch and that makes a difference. Whether they’ve ever been in this situation before, I don’t know, but when you’ve got appearances under your belt you can actually deal with things better, and I thought they dealt with it really well.

“I’m led to believe that Keith [Millen] was going to play Jon in defence in this game anyway, but I wrote a team out when I was waiting to find out what was going on, and I had Jon in there as well.

“When I came in and spoke to Gav he told me that was already the plan. That back three would have been what the previous manager would have done, by coincidence.

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“They were excellent, they all put in some great headers and clearances. Mark [Howard] was excellent in goal as well.

“When I spoke to him about the game we talked about the fact that we didn’t want him to have to make any saves, but I felt like there would be one he’d have to pull out, and thankfully he did that. Let’s hope he doesn’t have to make many more.”

“There were still some scary moments and I thought they were the land of the giants when they came out,” he joked. “I said to the players before the game, when we got their team, that we were going to have to give up some height advantage.

“That meant they were going to have to be like a dog with a bone and get amongst them, be physical, compete and ruffle them up. I thought they were magnificent in the way they did that.

“I thought the players looked comfortable doing what I asked them to do, and it was good to get Jamie Devitt back in the side because of the quality he can bring.

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“There’ll be more to come from him when he gets up to full match pace. We defended from the front, but we can’t rest on it.

“There are things we need to be better with, but we only had one training session then a light session on Friday, so I thought they were magnificent. That’s credit to them, it’s nothing to do with me. Players get you performances and results.”

Speaking more about the back three option, he told us: “The truth is I felt as though we needed a little bit more security at the back.

“It was more about them three and Callum Guy controlling the middle of the pitch. But it was more about the rest of the team being front foot, and not sitting and being negative. I didn’t want to come and get a 0-0 draw.

“I wanted us to be pushing and with Devitt, Gibson and the two strikers, then our two wing backs, they gave us a lot of forward momentum.

“Then if you’ve got strikers who are willing to run in behind, I think you’ve got the ingredients to cause teams problems.

“That’s where I thought Kristian showed his experience. Omari was excellent as well, he was a real thorn for their defenders.

“We’ve got four strikers who were on the pitch with Tobi and Tyrese, and Lewis on the bench as well, so we’ve got some firepower. They’ve just got to get rocking and start scoring goals now.”

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