A young United side put in a determined performance against Fleetwood on Tuesday afternoon and they worked hard to earn a victory with almost the last kick of the game.
Assistant manager Gav Skelton spoke to us afterwards about the manner of the victory being reward for the work rate.
“We’ve just spoken about with them, because attitude and application should be a minimum, always, in any game you play,” he said. “It isn’t always there, so it was fantastic to see that from them in this game.
“I’ve just asked them how they all felt with them being shattered and coming out of it having won the game. They are rightly very pleased and delighted with themselves.
“Right through the team it was a really good performance, which is even better when you think that we were up against an under-23 team that had much more experience than we had.
“We had five or six under-18s playing, seven or eight in total who have come through our system, and in terms of that it’s really pleasing.
“You could see what it meant to them at the end and they got the reward from the way they stuck at it. It was tough at the start, they came at us, but if you look over the full game, I think you’d say that we created a number of very good chances.”
“Both keepers were outstanding, the young lads did well, and the loanees showed a very positive attitude,” he added. “They don’t come here to play in reserve games, they come to gain experience with the first team, so it can be difficult.
“They led from the front with the way they went about it, and Jack Ellis showed that he’s played in the first team recently. It maybe wasn’t fantastic or free flowing all the way, but there are a lot of pleasing things to come out of it.
“We didn’t perhaps retain the ball enough, but the attitude and application was first rate. We don’t need to criticise anyone after this, we can only compliment them.”
Solid defending and excellent goalkeeping combined to bring a clean sheet that proved to be a foundation for the eventual win.
“We were defensively very solid and it was good to get 90 minutes for Duncan Idehen,” he agreed. “Jack Ellis was strong, and the young full back Will Maddison was really nervous at the start, he hasn’t really spoken to any of the pros before this, but he settled well, as did the subs that came on.
“You could see what it meant to Sam Hetherington when he came on and had a hand in the goal. He’s a left-sided centre midfielder and he’s going on as a right back. I just think he was pleased to get on.
“There was no pressure on him, and I thought he did really well. I don’t think there’s anyone who comes away with a black mark against their name.
“Behind them I thought Gabe Breeze, as daft as this sounds, looked like a goalkeeper. You can see the work that Gez does with him is paying off.
“He looked like a young pro, and he knows he’s got a long way to go, but he does himself no harm with the way he works in training and the way he looks after himself.
“Everybody who played did it in the right way. Like we said earlier, maybe there wasn’t finesse and quality all the way, but the application shone through. We’ll always take that.”
Providing the assist for the last-ditch winner was Jack Stretton, who literally put it on a plate for Fishburn to finish off.
“We can be critical when someone doesn’t take their chances, but he kept making the runs and he kept getting in there,” he told us. “That’s why he gets his assist, because he didn’t stop.
“He had three really good opportunities where he’ll think he should have scored, but he’ll get sharper. Again, his attitude was an example to the rest of them about how you conduct yourself when you go out on loan. If any of ours go out they should do exactly what our loanees are doing for us.
“He’ll get a lot of fitness out of that, that’s the main thing you want from any game, but he can take confidence from the runs he made and the way he competed. Both centre backs were bigger than him, but he never let either of them get a free header.
“You could see the timings of his runs got better and better and him and Sonny linked up really well. It’s game sharpness for him and that’s important.”
“It’s important because the players need that,” he continued. “You tend to judge players when they come into the first team and you can think they look miles off, but it’s not easy for them if they haven’t been getting pitch time.
“That’s me being critical of myself because I’m guilty of thinking that way sometimes as well. It’s important they keep up to top speed and I know the manager is really keen on getting as many who are fit as possible involved whenever we can.
“We have to balance that with injuries, and that’s when you can give young lads the opportunities. It’s part of their development, and some won’t go on to make it as professionals, but games like this they’ll remember and enjoy.
“They’ve been up against a team that is mainly together all the time, even though a couple of their seniors were involved. They play and train together, so it was aways going to be difficult, and that’s why we wanted to frustrate them and make it hard for them.
“No matter how much you think a team dominates, you always get a chance in football, and we worked our way into it. I thought we had the better chances just before half time and the second half was probably a bit more open. It could have gone either way and I’m pleased we won it.
“Winning feels good for everybody and the players see the reward from the work they put in. If you give that level of effort and get beat it’s a real kick in the teeth, but with an outcome like this they see that if they commit to what’s asked of them, stay disciplined and focused, then they do get the rewards. That’s another part of the learning curve.”