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MANAGER: They showed resilience

More from Keith Millen following the Scunthorpe away win

2 January 2022

Club News

MANAGER: They showed resilience

More from Keith Millen following the Scunthorpe away win

2 January 2022

United’s postponement hampered festive period has left them with back-to-back victories to celebrate - albeit with a 21-day gap between the respective Stevenage and Scunthorpe away fixtures.

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The New Year’s Day win at Scunthorpe was a lesson in dogged determination, with a goal just before the break from centre back Rod McDonald backed up by a gritty team display that ultimately brought the points home.

Speaking after the game, manager Keith Millen said: “It was a good win for a number of reasons. We hadn’t played for three weeks and we knew Scunthorpe were around us in the table.

“It wasn’t a six-pointer, they never are, but we knew it was going to be competitive, and with the fans coming in their numbers it ended up being the perfect performance and result.

“People do say that 1-0 is the best way to win, don’t they. You’ve scored your goal and then you have to show a lot of resilience and courage, and a lot of character to try to see it through.

“You know when you play away from home that the opposition are going to throw everything at you, so winning by one goal is probably the best performance. It’s not just physically or technically, it’s mentally as well.

“The more you can win games 1-0 the more you start to believe in what you’re doing.”

“It’s nervy watching it, you’d love to score the second, and we had opportunities to do that,” he continued. “We actually had more chances in the second half on the break than we did in the first half, so it would have been nice to get the second to back that up.

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“I loved the resilience the players showed. We had players out there who hadn’t done much training and you could see that Callum [Guy] was tired, Jack [Armer] was tired, and I thought it looked like we hadn’t played for three weeks in that first half.

“I sort of expected that a little bit, but we stayed in the game and we made sure we defended when we needed to.

“That shows the players believe in what I’m trying to teach them and tell them to do. If you keep a disciplined shape it doesn’t really matter what the opposition do.

“They played a diamond today, which can cause problems, but as long as we recognise what they’re trying to do and we then stick to what we’re doing, then my experience tells me that you’ll come out on top.

“If you keep chopping and changing you’re going to be in trouble longer-term. I think we’re starting to develop a belief and understanding in what we’re trying to do, certainly out of possession, but if I’m going to be critical, which is very tough on them after they’ve done this, then I would say they need to be better when they have the ball.

“It’s just about having that bit of composure, certainly when we had chances to put the game to bed in the second half. It’s on those occasions when I want us to use the ball better.”

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The win made it consecutive league wins under the new gaffer for the first time since his arrival, as well as taking the current run of form to three wins from the last four.

“I’m aware that we haven’t done two wins on the spin, so it’s nice to get little things like that out of the way,” he admitted. “It can only help build confidence when it’s happening.

“The process has kept going, and when I look at the group now, compared with my first game at Northampton, you wouldn’t recognise them. When I look at them in the dressing room I can tell they’re in a good place.

“We’ve got to keep going and we’ve got to try and bring in some help and reinforcements and keep getting better. When I first came in I talked about the fact that we need to win as many games as we can, and that’s what we’ve got to try and do now.”

“With the last two opponents being around us, it made it important for different reasons,” he continued. “I’ve just reminded all of them that there are still 24 games to go, so there’s still a lot to do.

“But the signs of progression in what we’re doing, you can see what’s going on, but it’s still not enough for me. That’s why I want to add to the group.

“We have the basics of a good side but I want us to become better. We’re working hard to try and bring in some reinforcements that will help with that.”

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And the goal, Rod McDonald’s first for the club, came from a wicked corner and a confident run from the defender that saw the ball bully its way over the line.

“The reason you get sent up for set pieces when you’re a big centre half is to try to affect things and score the odd goal as well,” the manager told us. “Sometimes it’s about having the right mentality and a bit of belief, and I know if you haven’t scored for a while you go up there not fully believing that you will.

“The fact that he has shows that if you do things right you’ll get your rewards. I have been giving him some stick - saying what’s the point in you going up if you’re not going to score – and we’re joking now with him about it being six years since his last one.

“If I realised it was that long I probably wouldn’t have sent him up. But, no, we’ve worked on set pieces and we’re aware that in tight games what you do in both boxes can win you the game.

“I felt overall that was the difference in this game. We got first contact in both areas with whatever came in.”

The scenes in the away end at the final whistle saw the 200+ travelling army wait behind to applaud their team, with them also having played their part.

“It’s brilliant for them to travel down and get the win,” he told us. “I said to the players in the meeting at the hotel on the morning that we’re in the entertainment business, and Christmas and New Year is a tough time for footballers because you play a lot of games.

“But Boxing Day and New Year’s Day are big days for the fans. They want to get out of the house, a bit of fresh air, so to have those numbers, and they got behind the players again, they can see the desire the players are putting in.

“We’ve made their day, and there’ll be a few hangovers in the terraces, but they go home very happy. It’s the best kind of result you can have for everyone because it shows resilience after you do what’s needed to score.

“The fans love that, so Happy New Year to everyone, and hopefully we can carry on now.”

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

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