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MANAGER: A bit of a reality check

More from Keith Millen following the Saturday defeat

23 January 2022

United’s five-game unbeaten run came to an end at the New Lawn on Saturday afternoon and manager Keith Millen acknowledged afterwards that the positives had been overshadowed by some familiar problems as chances to create dangerous situations were spurned at one end, with a tendency to being too open punished at the other.

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“I thought we were ok in the first half,” he said. “We started the game really well and the lads were putting into practice the tactics we’d talked about, which we felt could take advantage of their openness.

“I felt that worked really well and we got into some good, dangerous areas. We had plenty of one against one situations, but we didn’t punish them.

“There wasn’t enough end product and we gifted them a goal. It was a really sloppy goal, from nothing, but despite that I thought we were the better side in the first half.

“I thought we looked more in control and more effective. Again, we’re talking about end product, and for the areas we’re getting in we don’t look like we’re threatening enough, but we keep saying that, don’t we.”

“I was disappointed to go in a goal down at half time,” he continued. “The way we conceded made it a really poor goal from our point of view.

“When they scored the second we went back a little bit to being too open and too exposed, and they punished us. They showed why they’re top of the league and why they’ve scored so many goals.

“They’re clinical, and that was the difference in the game. They were stronger and better than us in both boxes and they took their chances. We were far too open, and that’s not us.

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“I felt this was a good test to see where we were, and we’re not a top team yet. I didn’t expect that to be the case, but we’re also not a bottom team.

“We’re a team that’s in transition, that’s been on a good run, and that needs to learn from this - and we will.”

The talk amongst the home fans showed agreement that Carlisle were the better side in the first 45 minutes, but that provided little consolation with the nets left untroubled come full time.

“I actually don’t think we can do any more than what the lads are trying to do, to be fair to them,” he told us. “They’re doing what I’m asking of them tactically and we got into some really good areas because of that.

“From there you’re thinking ok then, go and make something happen, but there’s just not enough coming from these good situations.

“We keep trying to come up with solutions and we look at how to be more effective in the final third, because that’s really what’s letting us down.

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“The last 30 minutes, I’m not going to ignore it, but we won’t be like that again. You’re obviously trying to score the next goal, but we exposed ourselves to being countered. They showed their quality on the break and they hurt us while we were doing that.”

“There’s a frustration because we highlighted before the game that Forest Green can hurt you through the middle if you let them,” he continued. “They did that in the second half and that’s because we wanted to score the next goal without thinking about keeping things tight and compact as well.

“Against a good team you can be punished if you do that. The difference is that when we’re on the attack, with a lot of men forward, we aren’t punishing teams.

“Like I say, I’m not worried about that last half hour because that won’t be us again. But we have to be better when we’re playing well, like we were in that first half.

“Looking back I thought we passed it ok at the start of the game. We got out down the wings, our full backs got out s well, and we created some good situations.

“The problem we have is that not enough comes from it. We can’t do much more than we’re doing. We’re looking to bring in one or two players to try to make us better, and this game showed the slight difference between these teams at the moment.

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“You could say we were second best in both boxes and that’s generally why you lose games.”

And if there is a sense of frustration, it’s that the unbeaten run has been terminated when the chances were there to have made it harder for the division’s pace setters.

“I wouldn’t use the word frustration, it’s just a massive sense of disappointment that we’re not where we want to be yet,” he insisted. “It was a good test after all of the plaudits we’ve got after the run we’ve been on.

“It’s a test that shows we’re not there yet, which is fine, and if we’d been the better team for 90 minutes we could say we should be up there, but we haven’t got to that point.

“It’s a bit of a reality check for all of us, but it doesn’t mean we’ve become a bad team. We were too open after their second goal, and playing that way is not us, so I’ll put that right for the next game.

“The problems of what we fail on are what they’re very good at. They’re clinical, they punish teams when they find good areas and they score goals. That’s the difference.”

“I suppose frustration is a good word to describe the situations we’re getting into but not capitalising on because we’re getting into good areas tactically,” he added. “What we did worked, apart from when we had the chance to punish them.

“They do leave themselves exposed but we didn’t take advantage of that. There were some good bits, some other bits I know we’ll improve on, but even though it is a reality check I’m ok with where we are.”

Talking tactics, he explained that he wasn’t too comfortable with how the team looked when he decided to match the home shape.

“When we almost went up against them, we looked even more open,” he said. “I think that shows why we don’t do that. We were two down, 20 minutes to go, you have to take that risk and they were good at exposing the gaps.

“We’ve got rid of those spaces recently, it’s something I stopped from day one. We’ll get back to the basics of what we’re good at and we’ll be fine for the next game. 

“And you can see what Forest do that’s made them such a good team. They’re effective, it’s not rocket science, they’ve got a big centre forward that’s a handful and we struggled to deal with him. Anything that goes into him generally sticks or he flicks things down, and they’ve got runners off him.

“It’s not some fantastic way of playing or rocket science, they’ve got people effective in what they do.

“We need to maybe look at the balance of our attacking options. Maybe we need something a little bit different to what we’ve got.

“We’ve got a lot of pace, runners, maybe we need a bit more of a target, whether it’s a bigger target man or a clever one in a pocket. That’s what we’re looking for. Whether we can find that is a different story.

“We’ll make sure we learn lessons again. It’s not good if you don’t learn from it. That’s why I’ve told the lads to analyse it because this is where we want to be.

“We all want to be seven points clear at the top, so don’t just rely on me, you need to look at yourself as well.

“I want to take this club to where Forest Green are, and that means working on the areas where we need to be better, which we will.”

Click HERE to watch an interview with Keith Millen on iFollow United now.

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