United face Workington in pre-season friendly number three this afternoon and gaffer Paul Simpson knows that his team will face a stiff test in what is always a keenly contested affair.
“There’s always an edge to the Workington games, but I’m looking forward to it because they’re a good side at their level,” he said. “It’s a step up in the opposition we’ve had so far.
“We’ll pick a side to start and that will hopefully get 60 minutes. That stretches it a bit and means they’ve got to get themselves going again after half time, unlike the last two games.
“We’ll then reverse it for the training game on Tuesday so everybody starts to build up their fitness. We know it will be a difficult game for us but it’s the next one so we’re looking forward to it.
“We’ll look at getting them closer to 90 minutes in the Bolton game onwards.”
“The good thing about this game is that even though it’s a friendly, they like to take a scalp, and we’ve got to be ready for that,” he continued. “That’s why we play these games. It’s twofold.
“I always agree to do these games because it makes some money for the smaller local teams, and that’s not being disrespectful me saying small. We don’t take anything from it.
“We ask the players to travel on their own so we’re not having to pay for a coach and take that out of gate receipts. The club take the money, which hopefully helps them.
“Also we know they’re going to be tough tests. The Penrith game, although we scored a few goals, it wasn’t straightforward for periods, and there was a spell against Kendal when they kept the ball for a time and we had to work hard out of possession.
“We’ll be demanding the same at Workington where the lads have to work as hard as they possibly can, to make sure they get the fitness in their legs, but try and play more football and have a structure to how they go and play.”
The Saturday fixture will see the starters get an hour, another sign that things are ramping up.
“My intention is for the starting eleven to play 60, or a minimum of 60 minutes,” he explained. “We’ve got to get through that phase of working for 45 minutes, stopping for half-time, getting going again and getting that second wind through.
"At that point we’ll make a number of changes. Then we’ll reverse it for the training game next week. We’re just building it up.
“Possibly by the Bolton game some lads will get 90 minutes, it won’t be nine or ten changes in that one. I want lads to be getting 90 minutes under their belts in the final three games we have.”
A feature of the first two outings has been the standards demanded from the dugout, even after good passages of play have been witnessed.
“I just do and react to things that happen in the game,” he confirmed. “It’s nice to score goals and it’s nice to keep clean sheets, I get all of that, and it’s really good for individuals to get goals.
“But I’m not really bothered about that right now, I’m more interested in them getting good habits. And obviously I do want us to win.
“I want to get that habit of winning games, but I’m more interested in seeing what we’re doing. I want to see how we’re defending and that’s why, when we’re attacking, I’ve got one eye on what’s happening but I’m also making sure that we know we need to do to be safe.
“Last season there were far too many transitions where we ended up with our backs against the wall and the keeper needed to make last ditch saves.
“I want to try to get a shape about us where we have that security behind us while we’re attacking. If it means we’re attacking with five and defending with four, that’s what we’ll do.
“With our league and cup games it isn’t FIFA 22, where you’re on your computer and everybody goes gung-ho.
“We need to maintain security behind the ball and, as much as I want to be attacking, I don’t want to be on the back end of a transition where we’re scrambling around.
“It’ll happen, but I want us to be set up where we’re avoiding us seeing it too many times.”