United made it back-to-back wins at Brunton Park on Tuesday night with another gutsy performance that saw them defend as a group, and score goals at important times to make sure the points stayed in Cumbria.
For manager Paul Simpson it was a successful return to the technical area following a near 16-year absence, with six points from six courtesy of a successful second outing in charge.
Rochdale had their chances, but strong defending backed up by an excellent display with the gloves from Mark Howard took the Cumbrians over the line for a victory their endeavours deserved.
“I think in the end they probably did deserve it, but if I’m going to be honest I thought Rochdale were a better football team,” he said. “They were a really good footballing team.
“They’ve got a good style of play, and players who are confident on the ball. It’s something that I’d really like us to get to.
“I’d like to get us to a point where we have more control in games, but I totally understand that it’s like a bit of a fear because of what’s been going on in terms of results.
“What we lacked in controlling a game we absolutely made up for it in desire, commitment, determination, togetherness. They’re the things I think people take for granted, but if you don’t have it then you’ve got no chance.
“It’s really hard to pick out individuals because they were outstanding as a group. I’ve talked about the whole group having to stick together, and I’ve asked the fans to give us a chance, and I’ve asked the players to work for each other.
“I think there was a real determination about what we did that earned us the result.”
As at Orient at the weekend, the desire to protect the target was there for everyone to see.
“In the first half the two strikers worked their socks off without any reward, and obviously Omari [Patrick] got his goal,” he commented. “I’m going to put it down to a little bit of luck, but also it was a great delivery into the box from Jamie Devitt.
“Omari was on his toes, he got his finish and it meant we had a goal to give ourselves something to hang onto. You often say you stay in the game at 0-0, but we were actually staying in it when we were one up.
“That was when we had to dig deep, and I felt we dropped a little bit too deep in the second half. But then I thought the little chains we made stopped them from going through us with a controlled build-up, and it made them go a little bit longer.
“I’m delighted for the players because it’s tough when things aren’t going well, so I’m really pleased for them.
“I’m delighted for the supporters who made it a great atmosphere for us. I’ve no idea what it’s been like this season but that was good to see and hear.
“I thought they stuck with the players, even though we didn’t have any control in the first half. That’s really important, we’ve got six more home games now, and they can play a part for us.”
The Tuesday night outing saw the same starters for a second game, but he revealed that he’d almost given in to the temptation to have a little tinker.
“I toyed with the idea of freshening it up a little bit, then I had to give myself a slap to stop myself from trying to be too clever and too smart,” he commented. “These lads worked really hard to win the game at the weekend, so I thought they deserved to go again tonight.
“There are going to be some tired legs, but I tell you what, everybody who is going to work in shops and factories tomorrow would swap places with them and have the tired legs.
“They’re in a really privileged position, the players, they’ve worked extremely hard, they’ll get tomorrow off, but we’ll start again on Thursday to get ready for the next one.
“The good thing at the moment is they’re showing haracter, personality, all of the things I believe have been questioned, and the only way you can change that is by going out there and doing the business.
“The players deserve a massive amount of credit for it because that’s what they’re doing. I’m just a different face, a different voice who’s organising it, but the players are the ones, let’s give them the credit – their personality, their character that earned them the right to become professional footballers is starting to come out.”
At the front-end of the equation was Omari Patrick, who netted his fifth of the season from a crunching close-range volley.
“It’s about staying alive and it’s something we talked about on Saturday, if you’re not going to win the first ball make sure you win the second,” he explained. “We didn’t get there to the delivery, but do you know what else was clever about them, they didn’t foul the keeper.
“He was stretching and uncomfortable, but we waited and we got the bits. It was a great finish. I’m delighted for Tobi [Sho-Silva] as well, it was excellent from him.
“He showed really good composure, and I thought he was going to go down a couple of times. If he had the last defender’s going to get sent off, but he kept his balance and he’s another who was rewarded for that.
“It shows the value of the finishers coming on and doing the business and affecting the game properly. Him and the two midfielders who came on and finished the game for us really did a job.”
“And what about the reaction when Tobi scored,” he added. “It was the loudest and the best feeling I’ve had for a long time.
“When you’re on this side of it, the horrible side of football, on the coaching / management]side - I’d much rather be playing - when you’re on this side, it’s actually just a relief, as a feeling of relief, to think ah, wow, job done.
“Let’s dust ourselves down and go for the next one. It was brilliant. Most people stayed, didn’t they, they’re all still in at the end. The players earned the right to go and take the ovation, thank the fans for turning up, which is really important.”
Visible for those watching the last two games has been a return of the type of confidence that allows players to try different things, and to take more calculated risks.
“I’ve just asked them to go and play a bit freer and try to relax a little bit,” he confirmed. “That’s how I’ve tried to be about it, but I started to lose my head a little bit on the touchline.
“Again, I gave myself a slap for that because that’s not what my role is. There’s no point me losing my head on the sideline then asking them to calm down.
“I need to get a bit of a check on my emotions as well. I’d like it if we could get that second goal a little bit earlier, then I might not have to lose my head, but the players earned the right to win the game.
“At some point I will see the league table but I know that if we win we’re not going to drop a place. If we just keep winning it’ll make it easier for us.
“Part of the reason for us getting these two wins has been scoring the first goal. That’s always important. It was a really big to get the first goal.
“It’s always nice, I think it gives the supporters something to hold onto. We want the players to hold onto it and it gives the fans a lift as well. It’s just what we needed.
“Then the players stayed in the game, defended, did their jobs. There was a couple of little skirmish breaks that they had where our keeper came in and made a couple of really good saves. But they stayed in the game.
“At half-time the players identified where the issues were, we made a little adjustment to it to be a little bit more front-foot and try and stop them building comfortably, and having to go longer.
“I think that really played into our back three in that they were able to go and compete, and they got some massive headers in tonight.”
But did everyone come through it unscathed, particularly with Callum Guy leaving the pitch with 15 minutes left to go.
“There’s a few little niggles,” he said. “I thought Dev was just tiring a little bit, which he will do, because he’s not played a lot of games. Kristian exactly the same.
“Callum just had a little bit of tightness. It’s about being careful with them and not slogging them.
“We’ve got players who are bursting to come on and I thought Corey and Danny did really well. I don’t need to say anything about Tobi, his celebration and goal say everything for me.”
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