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MANAGER: Good individually and collectively

More from Paul Simpson following the Morecambe friendly

24 July 2022

The final pre-season fixture of the summer brought with it plenty of positivity after United dominated much of the 90 minutes against League One side Morecambe at the Mazuma Stadium on Saturday.

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And manager Paul Simpson was full of praise for the performance as the squad now heads into the final week of preparations ahead of the season kick-off next Saturday.

“I’m delighted, really pleased,” he said. “There were so many things to be pleased about, but the first thing to say is that the fitness levels of the players is really good.

“The shape that they had about them, they were disciplined, so I’m really pleased. People will say that we’ve only drawn 0-0 but I’ll take clean sheets and I’d rather save the goals for the season.

“We’ve got to make sure we keep creating and getting in there, and goals will come if we do that. I thought the team shape was very disciplined and we dominated the ball for long periods against a team from the division above.

“There were a lot of good individual things and we were really good as a collective.”

But was there any sense of frustration at all at having created so many good openings, but not having put one away.

“No, I’m not frustrated, not at all,” he insisted. “I’ll be really honest with you, I was a bit concerned before the Livingston game that we hadn’t lost.

“I was thinking that I didn’t want it to carry on that way because I’ve been involved with teams where you have a really good pre-season, get result after result, but you can’t find a win once the season starts.

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“When you lose you learn things, and it gives you something to look at. After today we’ll look at the finishing and we’ll get the players used to hitting the back of the net, but I’m really not concerned because I’m pleased with how they went about their business.”

“It’s really pleasing that there were a lot of positives,” he continued. “Like  I say, the fitness levels are the biggest thing I take from it.

“I was really pleased with the way the players applied themselves and the way in which they executed the game plan.

“What we have to do is make sure that all of that goes into what we do next Saturday when it does really matter.

“Today is important, you want to do things properly, but Crawley at home is where it really does count.”

And the meeting with Morecambe was the second time in the space of a fortnight that a League One team had been match for talent and ability.

“Last week I thought we were excellent against Bolton,” he agreed. “I thought against Morecambe we’ve done 99 per cent, maybe 99.5 per cent of the things right. We just haven’t scored.

“People will probably say scoring’s probably the biggest percentage of the game if you want to be successful. I think if we hadn’t been creating chances I’d have been more annoyed and frustrated.

“But we’ve created chance after chance. Our set play delivery and movement was excellent, we’ve created some really good one on one opportunities, or balls in behind them where we’re getting in. Unfortunately we just didn’t get goals, but that’s something to build on. 

“Morecambe were kept quiet. I think they’ve got some good forward players in the likes of Jake Taylor, Ash Hunter, Cole Stockton, Caleb Watts, Arthur Gnahoua.

“These lads are decent forward players. I thought we marshalled it really well. I thought the back three were excellent.

“Callum Guy sitting in front, screened it really well, and when they did get through I thought the big fella at the back, Tomas, was there to clean things up. It had a really good structure about it and definitely gives us something to build on.”

The cohesion on display was without doubt helped by a week away in Scotland, with the players heading back from that trip ahead of the trip to Morecambe.

“It definitely achieved what I wanted it to,” he confirmed. “There were a lot of good things that happened up there.

“The players had to do some work on reviewing of games, which we’ve never done before, and we brought somebody else in to have a chat with the players about what their targets for the season are and where they see us going, and how we’re going to get there.

“We got them to think about what good would look like on a day-to-day basis. For me it was a really good week of work for us, and I think that showed today.

“This all comes at the end of a pre-season that’s been outstanding. We had the first three weeks where they worked really, really hard.

“We sat down as a group of staff after three weeks and said we might just have to have a look at it, we’ve maybe been a little bit over-excited and thinking we can get more and more work in.

“It’s been a case of toning it down, making it a little bit more short-sharp, and giving it a really positive feeling.

“Next week will be the same again where we’ll get them sharp, do some bigger pitch stuff and some short stuff so they’ve got a bit of a blend of everything ready to go into the game.”

Click HERE to watch an interview with Paul Simpson on iFollow United now.

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