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INTERVIEW: We kept possession at the right times

Assistant boss Gav Skelton on a strong Saturday performance

9 January 2022

United’s home win over Bradford on Saturday afternoon made it 12 points from 15 from the last five league outings, and it came off the back of a strong performance which saw the Blues score to turn the screw at key moments in both halves of the game.

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Speaking after the game, assistant boss Gav Skelton confirmed that it was the result that was the most important factor of the day, even though the performance had added icing to the cake.

“First and foremost the result’s most important, especially at this stage of the season,” he said. “But I thought the performance was really pleasing. Even first half, we were ok, and felt more was to come, and I think we showed that in the second half.

“There were bits of quality in the game - two real bits of quality in the game to score the goals. It was a great finish from Jordan Gibson but it’s a great pass from Jack Armer to pick him out.

“He hasn’t just put it in the box, it’s a great pass, and from where we are it looked great all the way from Jordan. It was never not going to go in the net.

“In the second half, Jack put a great ball down the line to stretch their defence, Omari showed his pace and his quality when he got that chance, and again it never looked in doubt that he was going to score.”

A feature of the play throughout the 90 minutes was the patience shown during build-ups, with the team looking to protect the ball rather than rush into situations where it could be turned over. 

“We kept possession at the right times, especially as the game went on,” he agreed. “In the first 20 minutes or so we didn’t pass the ball as well as we can, but certainly showed a good understanding of what we want to do and how we can develop.

“Being ultra-critical we wanted more, we could have passed the ball quicker in the first half, to try and break those lines and create more opportunities, but we showed good patience, good movement, not to rest in possession, to move so people have options on the ball whether shorter or in behind.

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“The good thing even though we did start slowly was that we stayed in the game. In any game it’s a battle and it may not sound technical, but it is the basics. Head it, kick it, get a foothold in the game, because they started well and we didn’t.

“After that early spell we got a foothold in the game, played a couple of passes, managed to turn them, and we got some good balls into good areas from the full-backs.

“You always felt there was more to come from us, and we’ve shown we can defend the box in the last few games, which is pleasing, and we’ve shown we’ve got some quality when needed, and that was the difference in the game.”  

And on the goals coming when they did, giving a lift to players and fans alike, he commented: “We’ve had it happen against us, so it’s a massive time, just before half time.

“It changes how you look at it at half time, how the players feel, and it’s a massive five minute period at the start of games and at the end and start of halves.

“It’s no coincidence that goals are scored in those spells because it’s concentration, everyone’s human, and people look at the clock, concentration can go, so it’s important you stay switched on, and then you can punish teams if they switch off.

“With Jordan, every time he plays he looks like a threat, whether he’s on it or isn’t on it, I don’t know the stats but he always has two or three shots every game. Some frustrate you, like at Harrogate when he shoots from 50 yards, but then he goes and does that and that answers it.

“He has some quality, be it creating an opportunity or getting a shot at goal. He’ll be delighted to score against an ex-team, it’s bound to feel extra special for him. It doesn’t matter who it’s against for us as long as it leads us to winning the game.

“And Omari, it’s funny, I said it was written for him before the game. It is funny how these things happen when you play an old club, I don’t know if subconsciously you go that extra half-a-yard.

“Once he got down the side he showed great composure, conviction and quality to score the goal. As a coach, fan, player, it’s a great time to score, you just feel that relief and it takes that edge out of the game.”

The clean sheet added to what has been an important run of results which has seen the team edge away from the bottom places in the division.

“It’s been massive because you need to be averaging over a point a game, and we weren’t, so it’s huge for us to keep picking wins up,” he agreed. “It puts pressure on teams around you as we grow in confidence.   

“You can’t settle but it does feel better. You can look at the table, as much as you say you don’t, you do, even if it’s for half an hour you feel naturally better, then come Monday you start looking again.

“You want to win as many as you can. Subconsciously, players take a lot of confidence from that. Hopefully the players can start looking up the way, not taking an eye off where we are, but hopefully we can start pushing up the table. 

“More confidence comes from it being a strong performance. That and the Salford game are probably the best we’ve played this season.

“We were composed and controlled. One of the fans said that, and I wouldn’t disagree with that. You just felt we were in the game.

“It was a little bit edgy at first, you could feel it, but once we got in front you could feel that control, and that’s a sign of confidence from the players. We all felt we would go and win the game.”

Brunton Park was a noisy place to be on Saturday, with the home fans doing their bit to urge the lads on every step of the way.

“It was a really good atmosphere and it did help us in that last 25 minutes,” he confirmed. “I’ve said before how big an impact a crowd has on a team.

“They stayed with us, we gave them plenty to shout about, they got behind us, the lads fed off that and that’s probably why we got that second goal. 

“Us getting that took the edge away, it brought a calmness to the whole stadium, and I don’t think Bradford had a shot on target, although they threatened, and they had the disallowed goal, which was correctly given.

“I don’t think Mark’s had another save to make, which is pleasing from a defensive point of view. It starts from the front two, how hard they worked.

“They couldn’t serve quality to their front players at times, because our front tow were working so hard, backed up by the midfield four and the defence. That’s how you keep clean sheets. It was a really professional, controlled performance with some real bits of quality.”

Click HERE to watch an interview with Gav Skelton on iFollow United now.

Click HERE to see a clip from this interview on our YouTube channel. Follow the same link for more FREE content right from the heart of the club.

 


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