United boss Keith Millen pulled few punches in his post-match assessment of the away defeat at Salford on Tuesday night as he admitted disappointment at the manner in which the team had lost the game, with a return to unforced errors as a root cause of the loss.
“The difference at the moment to when we were on a good run is that we’re making bad mistakes, bad decisions, and giving goals away cheaply,” he said. “Whether it was handball or not, I haven’t seen that yet, but it looked harsh.
“I didn’t think it was hand to ball, more the ball hitting him, I don’t know. Then the second goal is just poor play.
“Like I say, we’re making bad mistakes and decisions at the moment, that’s what’s costing us. Not just defending, but in an attacking sense, some of the players all of a sudden look like they’re almost scared to make a decision.
“It’s a good job we’ve got some new players in, it’s time now, we’ve got to freshen it up, without a doubt. The lads, I can’t fault their work rate and effort, they’re trying, our shape was ok, but the quality and decision making at the moment is a worry.
“We’ve gone back a long way from where we were three weeks ago, which I find amazing. It is a surprise to me, but that’s the group, that’s what we’ve got, and we need to give them a lift.
“We’ve got some new faces that aren’t scarred by the season we’ve had so far and hopefully they will help to freshen us up.”
With good attacking situations spurned at one end, and a goal conceded just four minutes after the equaliser from Omari Patrick had been netted, he admitted that there was a real sense of frustration at the group not fulfilling its potential.
“To be fair, I can’t think of a game where we’ve been really opened up,” he told us. “Our shape, discipline, all the basics are still there, but we’re making such bad decisions.
“Whether it’s a lack of confidence, a little bit of tiredness, the players need to look at themselves and try and come up in with an answer.
“Having to make three subs due to injuries in the first half, that doesn’t help. I can’t remember the last time I had to make three injury subs, let alone before the break.
“We have to be honest and say they started well. They had us penned back for 10 minutes, we rode our luck a little bit, put bodies on the line, but we got through that bit of pressure.
“I thought ok, it calmed down, the game, a little bit, then you pick up the injuries. We settled again and there wasn’t much in the game. They looked dangerous from crosses into Smith, but apart from that I didn’t think there was much between the teams.
“The one time we did get two or three passes off, we scored a good goal. Then you’re back in the game, 1-1, but we make another bad decision and get punished again.
“It’s time for me to maybe change things now, that’s three defeats, we’ve got to stop the rot definitely. Luckily I’ve got new players coming in that will refresh and be looking to impress, and that’s what I’m going to have to do now.
“With three injures that changes the starters anyway. But I was pleased with Dynel, I thought it was a tough game for him on Saturday, against Sutton, his first game, but I thought today you could see more signs of what he will give us. He battled well, the back four did, to be fair, but this run is a reality check and it tells me that I need to change things.
“We’re in a rut but they’ve been in it before, on a lot worse run than this. We’ve picked ourselves up and we will do it again. I definitely need to make some decisions and try and help the group, and freshening it up will help us without a doubt. That’s what we’ll be doing.”
And for the first time over the past few weeks it has started to look from the sidelines that confidence is becoming an issue, particularly if a goal is conceded.
“I agree with that, and I don’t really know why,” he commented. “We’ve been decent for quite a long time, it’s not like one or two games.
“We were confident, strong, organised, and that’s dwindled very quickly. It’s something I’ve not experienced here yet, now I’m learning about the group, and I’ve got to try and help to pick them up, which I will.
“When you haven’t scored enough goals all season you understand that the group is a little bit fragile when they go behind. You can see the relief and happiness when we score, so it has an adverse effect when you concede.
“We lack that belief that we can go on and score another, and that’s something I hope the new players will help with.
“It’s why we need fresh faces because we do look low in confidence. They’ve all got ability, they can all see a pass, they can all deliver a pass, it’s not about technique. We work hard in training to help them get better.
“It’s definitely more a mindset, without a doubt. Confidence is a strange thing, or lack of confidence more to the point, because when you are lacking it, it can do bad things to your game and decision making. That’s what it is at the moment.
“When you look at the goals, they’re bad mistakes, individual mistakes. I’d be more worried if we were being opened up, looking wide open and exposed. Then you’re in trouble.
“It’s poor decision making, that’s what has cost us. All the goals recently, teams haven’t had to do a lot to score against us. Again, that’s a bit of confidence.
“I don’t go in and get personal with players. I’ve tried to help them pick up, but there comes a time you think enough’s enough, and we’ve got to make some changes. They look a little sorry for themselves and we have to sort that out.”
“It’s my job to pick the lads up and pick the right team,” he concluded. “I don’t think people can fault their effort, they are trying. If they weren't I’d be a lot more worried standing here.
“You can’t fault that. The frustration for the fans and myself is the lack of confidence and quality. We’ll get that right, definitely.”
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