The Blues picked up a hugely important victory at Holker Street on Saturday afternoon with the hard-fought and determined win taking them to 12 points clear of the bottom two spots in the division.
A stern and gritty approach helped to keep quiet a large and expectant home crowd with two well-taken goals giving the 612-strong travelling supporters plenty to cheer.
“It’s brilliant, a massive, massive win,” manager Paul Simpson agreed. “This isn’t an easy place to come and get a result, and with the wind in the second half we had to contend with the set-plays they were putting in.
“They went direct and that caused us some problems, but it was just about us rolling our sleeves up and showing a bit of character. I’m led to believe that’s been questioned, wow, did they show some of it here.
“Mark Howard made a brilliant save in the first half, we scored two really good goals and we just about deserved it.
“It was a really tough game but what a feeling at the end when that final whistle goes and we’ve managed to get the three points we really, desperately wanted.”
It was the kind of display always appreciated by supporters with the team digging deep to ride out the tough spells and turning on the quality when it was their turn to play.
“In the second half we played a bit better because we had the wind coming at us,” the gaffer said. “We overhit things a little bit in the first half and the ball kept running out, but it is a tight pitch.
“I have to say, I thought it was a really good surface, I was expecting worse, without being disrespectful, so credit to the ground staff they’ve got a good surface here.
“We just didn’t play as well as I would have liked, but I did think we were a little bit calmer after the break.
“We managed to string a few passes together and one of the big things was our game management at the end, the way we kept the ball and the way we didn’t do stupid things.
“Thankfully we came through it, we got a big three points, and I’ve been told it’s a 12-point gap now which means Oldham must have lost, so that’s brilliant.”
The aforementioned partisan home contingent was a highest attendance for a league game since Boxing Day 1969, but a high work rate from the away team kept them quiet as edginess and nerves dogged much of the home play.
“In the first half especially we took the sting out of it, and we’d talked before kick-off about the fact it was going to be about competing and winning second balls,” Simpson told us.
“The goal comes from Jordan Gibson going after a second ball and making it his. I’m so pleased for him because I think he’s got some ability, but he had an off-night the other night.
“I spoke to him on Thursday and showed him the clips of what he’d done during the game, and he actually said to me - wow, that’s a horrible watch, isn’t it.
“I said yeah, and I had to sit through that on Wednesday as well as Tuesday! I think he’s responded in a really good way and I’m really pleased for him.
“He did well towards the end when we put him further up as a number 10, to try to get in between their two midfielders, and I was really pleased with the lads who came on.
“Corey Whelan took a horrendous whack in training on Friday morning and, being honest, he was a doubt, but when I made the substitution I forgot about him having a swollen foot. I’ve just seen it now and it’s not pretty.
“I think all of the players have shown character. We had a bit of a bug going through the camp, Jon Mellish missed a day with it, and with issues going on with his partner, and Omari was struggling before Tuesday night.
“Jack Armer was struggling today with it, Magnus Norman is missing with it, and we’ve had to get on and deal with it.
“Because of that the club have decided to reactivate the red zones in the changing room areas to make sure we don’t get any risk of infection spread. We’ve got to make sure we’re really focused over the week and that we approach things properly so we’re ready to go again.”
Whilst on the subject of niggles, we took the opportunity to ask about Callum Guy, who left the field following a heavy challenge early in the first period.
“He jarred his knee, I don’t know how serious it is, but he’s struggling a little bit at the moment,” he told us. “I think he’s been put on crutches at the end of the game, more as a precaution and not the fact that we know what it is.
“We’ll see how he is come Monday and we’ll assess it from there. At this moment it doesn’t look particularly good.”
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