Carlisle boss Paul Simpson immediately threw the spotlight on himself in his post-match appraisal at Rochdale on Tuesday night as he admitted that he’d toyed with the idea of making changes and freshening things up, before then deciding to stick with the team that had steamrollered its way to victory over Bristol Rovers just four days earlier.
“It’s that old thing they say about after the Lord Mayor’s show, maybe the Lord Mayor’s show was Saturday with a really good turnout at home and a battling, workmanlike performance that earned us a victory,” he said.
“Maybe it was a game too far, and it’s not about any particular individual, it’s more we maybe just needed a bit of freshness.
“As I’ve already said, I regret it a little bit, and somewhere in between what I did against Newport with four changes and tonight with no changes, was probably a mistake by me.
“I was going to say I don’t think I’ve made any others in this time, but I’m sure I have, I can’t think off the top of my head.
“Results have gone our way so far, and as a manager you look and say it was the right thing to do, because you’re judged on results. This one just wasn’t our game.”
“I don’t know whether it’s an excuse or a reason,” he added. “It’s something I’ll have to look at myself, maybe I have to take it on the chin that I made a mistake with my selection.
“It probably was a game that we needed to be freshened up, I made that mistake, that’s my fault, but I thought the players deserved to go again.
“It’s been a superb effort over the whole of March, the way they’ve gone about it, on training days, match days, they’ve been superb. I’m not going to take that away from them.
“I’m really proud of what they’ve done, proud of what us as staff have done, and I’m really disappointed whenever we lose.
“The only thing we can do now is get them freshened up and get ready for Saturday when it comes round really fast.
“Hindsight’s a wonderful thing, if I had that before the game I don’t think I’d be worrying about too much.”
Part of managing the disappointment of the defeat is a reflection of the positives - of which there were many to come out of the game.
“The players have shown a level of performance and of everything; desire, professionalism, higher levels than the league table suggests,” he agreed. “I thought Rochdale when we played them at home were the best footballing side.
“They went a bit more direct, maybe that’s a reflection of the surface they’re playing on. Second half we had spells where we played, got the ball down and passed it.
“But when we got in the final third we just didn’t have that cutting edge. One thing I keep asking for is for them to be more clinical. Hopefully that will come.
“I can’t put a finger on why we started the game as we did, it would be lovely if I could. We’ll analyse it, look at it, chat as a group of staff as to what we can do differently.
“I’m not standing here saying I will make changes on Saturday, I may feel as though the group that’s been out there deserve to go again and show they’re a bit better.
“That’s something we’ll assess over the next couple of days and see how everybody is when we get back into training.”
And it was the first game of his eight in charge where his side didn’t trouble the scoresheet, despite having crafted some decent openings.
“It was going to happen, even though you don’t want it to,” he told us. “You’re out there to score goals and win games.
“We’ve got flaws in the make-up of our group, but we’ve had some really good days since I came back into it at the end of Feburary.
“We have to make sure we don’t forget that, keep reminding the players of the positive sides of what they’ve done, and hopefully they’ll be ready to do it for us again.
“The way we responded after the Newport defeat is the example, without a doubt, because you show your character. If you lose one game, you do everything you possibly can not to lose two.
“If we’ve done it right on Saturday we can say it’s a little blip and we can sort of ease any fears supporters might have, and also what we might have.
“And we can be in control of that, if we do things properly between now and Saturday, and everybody’s fresh and ready to go.
“Obviously Oldham winning just closes the gap a little bit, but we’ve given ourselves a massive opportunity with what we’ve done through the last game in February and into March.
“We’ve just got to dust ourselves down. You’ve mentioned the supporters saying we’d have got hammered earlier in the season in this particular game.
“We can’t lose sight of that, we’ve got to keep that at the front of our mind what we’ve achieved, and we’ve got to go again for the next one which is another really big game.”
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