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Club News

MANAGER: It was about quality

More from Paul Simpson on the Harrogate game

9 August 2023

Club News

MANAGER: It was about quality

More from Paul Simpson on the Harrogate game

9 August 2023

United showed in flashes on Tuesday night at Harrogate but ultimately it was a first-half strike for the hosts that decided the contest as the Blues misfired in the final third.

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Speaking after the game, manager Paul Simpson said: “That was massively disappointing. The first half sets the tone, and the daft thing is we actually got into good areas.

“Before they scored the goal we were doing ok, up until the final third, then our quality was abysmal. Finding the right pass, executing the right pass, it just wasn’t good enough.

“We went to pieces a little bit when they scored, we left ourselves a little bit open one against one, but I thought Sam [Lavelle] had actually delayed him quite well. It looked like he’d held him up but the lad stuck it into the bottom corner.

“I don’t care where you play, whatever level you play at, if you can’t find the right pass in the final third then you’re not going to cause problems.

“Quality has been severely lacking in our play. I’m going to be honest, I don’t usually criticise people for penalties, but the penalty summed up our lack of quality in the final third.”

As we’ve said before, any goal conceded is one that brings questions and a sense of real disappointment.

“Jon Mellish went on a run and I don’t think he had a clue where he was going,” the manager told us. “He slipped up, but I keep saying that in those situations where our wide centre backs are stepping in, they have to find the pass.

“It’s not a case of just running, they have to serve the people in front of them and then run without the ball. From him losing it, one pass exposes us and Folarin is one against one up against Lavelle.

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GALLERY: Harrogate

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“Like I say, I thought Sam actually delayed him well and sometimes when you’re up against pace you just have to delay and wait for the troops to come, and I did think he'd delayed him initially. The lad got the shot off and it’s gone into the bottom corner.

“The goal is one thing, it’s how poor we were on the ball that’s massively disappointing for me. I thought there was a lack of energy in the first half.

“I wanted to avoid making loads of changes but at half time I had to do it. I had to try to get some freshness and add some life to it, and I thought we did have a go in the second half.

“Again, we didn’t quite find the right quality in that final third to be able to get a finish off. We had a couple of skirmishes in the box, but the truth is we didn’t do enough.

“I have to stand there and get abuse off the fans behind me, and rightly so, with people saying that they thought I’d said I wanted to be in the hat. I definitely wanted to be in the hat for the next round.

“That’s why we didn’t make wholesale changes. We’ve come here and we haven’t done enough, it’s as simple as that. We didn’t do anywhere near enough and it gives us a problem.”

Despite a below par first 45 minutes there were still chances created and opportunities missed from the away team.

“We had opportunities but it’s about quality,” he insisted. “We had a great breakaway towards the end of the first half where Jordan Gibson was going through, their defender had given up, and we don’t find the right pass for Luke Plange to go and get a nice simple finish. #

“It’s really disappointing because we’ve got players who can do it. When it’s come to match day on this occasion we haven’t been able to do any of it. This is where we all get judged, this is where it has to happen.”

“I thought Sean Maguire gave us some life, I thought Dan Butterworth showed a little bit of pace and enthusiasm,” he added. “I keep drumming it into Ryan Edmondson that I want him to play down the middle, but he’s running out wide and all over.

“If he wants to be a number 9 he needs to play down the middle of the pitch. We ended up with nobody down the middle because he was running all over the place.

“I thought Callum Guy gave us some life, and I thought Ben Barclay and Jon Mellish were good on the ball after the break. They tried to get us playing, but it’s that quality that you need, and we lacked it.

“If we want to have a season where we’re going to enjoy ourselves we have to be much better than this. Unfortunately there were too many occasions, particularly in the final third, where we let ourselves down.”

And explaining more on the thinking behind the changes made for the second half, he told us: “I wanted to see some energy. I felt as though the body language was rubbish.

“From going a goal down, it was really poor. There were a couple of players we took off who were feeling niggles so we had to protect them a bit. But I was making four changes anyway.

“I had to just adjust it a little bit because of those niggles. But the four changes are irrelevant, it was a case of us as a group trying to do something different in the second half, trying to affect the game of football, and unfortunately we didn’t have enough quality to do that. 

“I honestly don’t know how it can be explained, I wish I had the answer to it. I just felt that they didn’t raise their game when we went a goal behind. I thought we went under a little bit.

“Second half we did, I do think it’s psychologically easy to play when you’re 1-0 down because you’re chasing games. You’ve got to be able to do that from the start.

“I thought we had it in the first period in the game, we showed some good signs, got into good areas, but the quality in the final third was really poor from a group of players who are better than what they’ve showed us.” 


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