United got the reward for not giving in on Tuesday night with a late, late goal and a subsequent win in the penalty shootout that followed, which keeps them in the hunt for progression to the knockout stages of the Papa Johns, pending the results from the last round of group fixtures next month.
Speaking after the game, Paul Simson said: “They found a way and credit to the players for that. About five minutes before we got the equaliser I said to Gav, they actually deserve a goal tonight.
“They deserved a draw out of it. I was forgetting that it went to penalties even though we had practiced them on Monday, but I just felt they’d worked hard enough to get something.
“When you look at some of the players we had out there, and they were up against a team with some really good League One players in it, some who have hundreds and hundreds of appearances under their belts.
“We had two youth team players out there for most of the game, and I thought Ryan Carr was excellent. I only took him off because I changed the shape, it wasn’t about how he was playing, and I thought Nic Bollado applied himself really well when he came on. He got better when we put him into wide areas.”
“I’m absolutely delighted with all of them, and I said that to them at the end of the game,” he added. “I told them I was really proud of them for the way they went about it, the way they stuck to it.
“They had to weather the storm a little bit in the first half, but we then grew into it and we showed some real composure. I thought Jayden Harris was excellent, and Jack Stretton ran himself into the ground.
“Owen Moxon is getting better and better each game he plays, and Duncan Idehen was fantastic. Corey Whelan led with the armband on and Jack Ellis stood up to it all.
“Mick Kelly made three brilliant saves in the first half, and there were so many good things that we can take away from it. They got the reward with the draw, and then they finished it off with the penalties. They should all be pleased.”
And, as already stated, it was another performance built on a base of hard work, from back to front.
“When you work like they did you get those little bits of luck,” he said. “I’ve got to say that it took an eternity for the ball to go over the line for the equaliser and I still have no idea who scored it.
“I think we had three people wheeling away with their arms in the air, but it doesn’t really matter. I’m a great believer in scoring for the team, it doesn’t actually matter who gets it.
“If it was Duncan, Stretts, or Jayden, who cares. It was a really good goal for us and, once again, we had some other really good opportunities.
“I was a bit disappointed with the goal we conceded, unfortunately we got outjumped at the far post and probably, without looking back at it, I think it was the only header in the game that Duncan lost. These things happen and we have to deal with it and move on.”
Having selected a relatively young side, he explained what he wants to see when he sends them over the line.
“I’m looking to see how they cope,” he told us. “We got, not a bit of a surprise, but we prepared thinking it was going to be a similar team to what they’d played in the first game against Barrow.
“Out of the 18 in that one, 17 of them were different from the previous league game. I realised yesterday [Monday] that Fleetwood didn’t have a game this weekend, so I was a little bit torn as to which way to prepare – do we prepare for their first team or the one which played against Barrow – and in the end they had a mix.
“Five players started who played at the weekend, and I really did think they were a good side. You could see the difference in the levels between League One and League Two, but we hung in there with good discipline and composure, so we do take good things from it.
“The biggest thing I wanted from this game was getting everybody as close to 90 minutes as we could to keep them at match fitness. That means when their opportunity comes, they’re ready for it.
“That could be this Saturday at Newport, for one or two of them, we’ll have to wait and see how everybody is come the end of the week.”
“It’s brilliant for the players who were out there because they want to be playing and they want to be involved,” he continued. “There’s always food for thought and I thought there were some really good performances.
“I thought Owen Moxon did really well, he ran the midfield for long periods, Jayden Harris was excellent. Sonny showed some good touches, Jack Stretton was energetic, and Duncan grew into the game.
“Mick Kelly made three outstanding saves first half and his kicking was excellent, that’s good to keep that pressure on big Tomas. Jayden is new to the club and he’s one we’re going to have to be patient with.
“He showed real personality at the end when it was kicking off. He looked after his teammate, even though I really don’t know what happened there. Somebody went for Mells and Jayden backed him up.
“I like that, and it seemed pointless to me why one of their players went for Mells, anyway, they stuck together and got each other through it. I’m really pleased with a lot of things.”
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