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MANAGER: A group that knows what it's about

More from Keith Millen on the Hartlepool game

19 January 2022

Chances came and went for the Blues on Tuesday night, but it was a stalemate come full time as the spoils were shared after a full-blooded encounter.

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When asked if he was frustrated at not taking all three points, manager Keith Millen said: “No, I’m quite proud of the lads to be honest.

“For them to go again after Saturday, I can’t ask much more of what they’re doing, I really can’t. Yes, we had chances and we got into dangerous positions, and the final ball or the final decision wasn’t quite right, but there’s so much good about us.

“I’m actually not frustrated, I’m quite pleased with where they are now as a group of players. It’s another clean sheet and they’re doing everything I’m asking of them apart from that final little bit.

“It’s that moment of quality, an individual bit of skill, and we had some good positions that we could be better with. We had a couple of free kicks right on the edge of the box, and you’d like to think one of them would be the winning goal.

“We hit the crossbar, it was so close to going in, and they’re the fine margins in games. For all their possession they had one shot across the goal in the first half and the two opportunities in the second half.

“Apart from that they never looked like opening us up, so there is a lot for us to be pleased about. We’re carrying on this run now and we’re in a place where I look at us and I know what we are.

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“We’ve got a real identity to what we’re doing, so I’m pleased. Of course we’d have liked to have scored the goal and I think overall, with the areas we got into, we should have won.

“They have had those two chances so I’m not going to be greedy, but I’m looking at the bigger picture of where they are as a group of players, and I’m happy with it.”

“It’s another point, and the performance is important,” he added. “I know now that if we perform well, we’ve got a very good chance of winning games, without a doubt, because we are really organised, really solid, really hard working.

“The second half was unbelievable, the weather conditions turned, and all of a sudden we’re kicking into wind and rain. There was nothing in the first half then that came, and it doesn’t help when you’re playing against that. We struggled to get out at times because of it.

“We’ve got two new players up front, it was their first game together, so it wasn’t going to be perfect. We knew that, but you always know with Omari and Tyrese, with their pace, power and running, that they will get a chance.

“In the first half Omari got in on a good high press, and their keeper made the save. We’ve got those two who’ll only get better, without a doubt. That’s encouraging.

Match Reports

MATCH REPORT: Hartlepool

18 January 2022

“I felt with Jon Mellish moving back into midfield today, it was his best game in that position. I was really pleased with him.”

“There were a lot of good performances,” he told us. “As a team we kept another clean sheet, that’s a positive.

“The lads were a bit down in the dressing room, so I asked them why, and it’s a disappointment at not winning the game.

“It’s a group that knows what it’s about and what it wants to do, and hopefully they’ll keep growing in confidence. If we can bring in one or two that can help us, that’s even better. We’ve got a really strong foundation and we want to kick on.

“The only frustration is we had enough opportunities to score the winning goal. They had two good opportunities near the end that you can’t ignore, but generally they’re doing so many things well for us, and as a manager that’s really pleasing, to see that consistently now.”

Also important from the front players was the press, which was used to good effect early in the game.

“I was pleased because Hartlepool can cause you problems with the possession they have and the way they play,” he commented. “Those two played together for the first time and tactically it was quite a tough game for them.

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“They needed to work hard for us out of possession and in the first half, when we did press high, I’ve lost count of how many times we turned it over or caused them to make a mistake.

“You have to get that balance of when can you press, and sometimes you have to get back into a shape and be patient. That’s another part of our game I’m pleased with – we can be quite patient and have the confidence to sit in that middle block and say come on then, come and break us down.

“Teams find it difficult to do that and we were nearly in on so many occasions. You can get your rewards if you defend like that from the front. We turned it over so many times, but we couldn’t quite punish them.

“We wanted to win the game and I think we got in enough good areas to have done that. It’s just that final ball sometimes, or that little bit of quality. Generally, the way we’re playing is really pleasing for me to see.”

One shot from Tyrese Omotoye brought loud appeals for a penalty as it struck an arm on its way to the target.

“My initial thought is that it was in the box,” he agreed. “I think sometimes when officials aren’t quite sure, they tend to say it’s on the line, which I understand.

“If you’re not quite sure, it’s a big decision to give the penalty. I haven’t seen it again, but we had two free-kicks in that middle area, right on the line, and you hope one of them will go in.

“And with the clean sheet, that’s another one for us. Mark hasn’t had a lot to do but his saves are concentration from an experienced keeper, and he was there when they sort of got in a couple of times.

“He turned one onto the crossbar, and we managed to scramble it away, but every team is going to have one or two chances. He made the save in the last minute, and that was a big moment for us because we certainly didn’t deserve for that to go in.

“At this level, here in League Two, it’s normally the team that takes their chances that wins the game. I can’t remember a team dominating us for a long, long time, where we’ve been under constant pressure.

“We’re comfortable, we’re controlling games, and we’re getting into good wide areas. We knew we could create an overload, the crosses were going into the box, and we seem to be nearly on the end of them.

“That’s the final ingredient that every club is looking for, and a lot of managers will be saying the same thing.”

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