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MANAGER: I might have to take it on the chin

More from Paul Simpson on the Tuesday night game

30 March 2022

United were punished for a slow start to the game at the Crown Oil Arena on Tuesday night when they went behind to an early penalty, and it turned into a frustrating 90 minutes as they dominated without quite managing to put a dent in the Rochdale armour.

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“We talked before the game about the importance of starting right, and that’s even more important when you come to play a side that’s scrapping and trying to get wins,” manager Paul Simpson told us.

“You can’t afford to give a team like this a lift, as we did with penalty, but maybe I have to have a look at myself as well. I possibly have to take a bit of the blame for this for not changing it or freshening it up.

“I just felt these players deserved to go again because they’ve put in a monumental effort for us through March. I felt as though they could go again, but I have to look at myself on that one.

“That’s nothing against any individual, we probably just needed a little bit of freshness to it. That’s something we’ll have to look at.”

“We are disappointed that we lost but the players have been magnificent and we can’t forget that,” he added. “It's been a big effort from them.

“Even tonight, in the second half we at least had a go. We didn’t in the first half, we have to acknowledge that.

“Rochdale had something to cling onto and the second goal was a sucker punch because we were throwing bodies forward and trying to get something.

“Fair play to Rochdale, they battled away and they got the victory they’ve been scrapping for over the past few weeks. We’ve just got to dust ourselves down and go again now.”

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Having seen his team control much of the second period, he admitted that the lack of clear-cut chances created was a source of some frustration.

“It’s probably a criticism that I’ve had over a number of weeks that we don’t really produce the quality in the final third that we’re capable of,” he admitted. “We got into some really good areas, we had a great chance to equalise on the left-hand side at the far post with Jack Armer, and on another day we’d maybe hit the target with that.

“We had a number of other opportunities and it just wasn’t our night, for whatever reason. I’ll go back to it, we can’t take anything away from what these lads have done.

“It’s the same group of players who everybody was throwing all sorts of mud at, but they’ve been magnificent, they really have. This was maybe just one game too many, and I might have to take that on the chin for making that mistake.”

So how tempted was he to make changes when mulling over the team selection, particularly after what had been a gruelling encounter at the weekend?

“There was a temptation there to do that,” he confirmed. “If I’m going to be honest with you there’s somewhere between what I did for Newport when I made four changes, and what I did tonight that maybe would have been the right thing to do.

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“Hopefully over the last few games I’ll get my decision-making right because I didn’t get it right in this one.

“I can’t blame the players, but what we have to do now is lift them, keep them with us, and push them on again.”

As with any performance where you’ve enjoyed the bulk of the territorial advantage, there are always positives to take.

“I think the half-time break was the first time I’ve had to say cross words to them in the whole time I’ve been here,” he revealed. “They responded, and I thought they went about it in the right way.

“We were positive in the way we tried to do things, and we had that ball that flashed across the box from Brennan that Tobi almost got to, so there was a bit more enthusiasm and energy about what we tried to do.

“There was definitely more life about us in the second half but it would have been really nice if we’d had that from the start.

“You could feel that there was an atmosphere inside the ground, they were waiting to get annoyed, but unfortunately we gave them that lift with the penalty.

“It’s probably fair to say it was a needless tackle, because it looked like he was running it out of play, but it was a penalty, we have to accept that. The lad stuck it away well and gave them something to cling onto.”

The last time United lost under the new manager was at home to Newport, and the response was immediate and emphatic.

“Of course there’s still work to do, even though there’s a lot of teams that need to have a good run to catch us,” he said. “We have a duty to do these final games properly.

“Tranmere will be tough, Exeter will be tough, Mansfield and Walsall will be difficult. They’re all tough and we’ll have to earn the right to take something from all of them. It won’t just be given to us.

“We didn’t earn the right in this game, and that was from the first whistle. I would imagine that if we do that in other games we’ll probably end up on the end of the same sort of scoreline.

“We’re the ones in control of that, so we’ve got to make sure we start the next one properly and hopefully that’ll give us a platform to come out on top.

“That’s what we didn’t do here. We didn’t start with the same energy and desire as we have done and we’ve suffered because of it.”

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

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