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MANAGER: Much more what we want to be like

More from Paul Simpson on the Wigan game

16 August 2023

Club News

MANAGER: Much more what we want to be like

More from Paul Simpson on the Wigan game

16 August 2023

It was the classic case of a game of two halves for the Blues on Tuesday night as they stuttered through the first 45 minutes against Wigan only to then lift the crowd with a pulsating display that could easily have reaped more than the point it eventually earned.

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“We were a little bit tentative in the first half,” manager Paul Simpson admitted. “Let’s get it right, they’re a very good football side and they’ve got a group who are very close to Championship level, so we knew it was going to be a tough test.

“We were a little bit nervy in the first half but, that said, we conceded a really poor goal because of playing a square pass. We’re trying to get the players to look forward and play forward, don’t play square passes.

“Twice at Oxford we got caught out playing square passes, and we did it again tonight. Mox should have brought him down and taken the yellow card when he was inside their half, but then he had a free run.

“It’s a great ball and a fantastic finish from Charlie Wyke so you have to take your hat off to that.”

“Second half we were different, we were much better and showed much more what we’re like,” he continued. “We were on the front foot, we were aggressive in our challenges and we were better in our running and passing.

“There were still areas where we need to be better, but that’s the level we have to start every game. We accept that we’ve stepped up a level, but we’ve earned the right to be here.

“We have to go and show that type of desire from the start in every single game. That’s why we have a squad, because the players are shattered there, but that’s the level we’ve got to continue working at. This could be a really big point if we go and work like that on Saturday.”

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And there’s no doubt that the shackles were well and truly cast aside after Owen Moxon steamed in to level the scores with his second goal of the season.

“We started playing the type of stuff the players want to play from the start, that’s exactly what they want to do,” he agreed. “We’re not telling them to sit off and defend.

“We changed the shape tonight to try and be a bit more front foot because I thought if we stayed with the same shape as Saturday we’d get the same result. We changed the shape to be a bit more positive.

“First half I was questioning whether it was the right thing to do, but second half it showed it was the right thing to do. I thought the players went and showed what they were really about, and we had some really strong performances.

“Jordan Gibson was outstanding, Sean Maguire showed the quality he’s got, and Luke Plange worked his socks off when he came on. I spoke to Luke yesterday because it felt like he was trying too hard, which is totally understandable for a young player who wants to make his mark.

“I told him to try and relax and calm down and enjoy his football. He looked like he played angry tonight, which is fine, I don’t mind that, I just need him to calm down because it will come.

“He’s got ability and he’s a quality footballer, I know we haven’t seen the best of him yet but I hope that will give him a lot of confidence.”

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We wondered if the reticence shown in the first 45 minutes was part of subdued mentality that was perhaps affecting the way the lads were performing.

“I think you’ve got to have the belief,” the gaffer commented. “In my final message tonight I told them to just go out and mean it, whatever they were going to do, just mean it and go full throttle.

“Don’t hedge your bets and sit off it. I thought first half there were times where we could have had shots from the edge of the box when we got into good areas and we turned it down.

“Second half we were a little bit better in the way we played and we had a few more opportunities where we worked the 18-yard box better, but didn’t work the goalkeeper enough. I really think the way we went about it second half is the way we have to.

“I think you could tell by the reaction of the fans, who were absolutely magnificent tonight, that they appreciated what the players did in the second half. They can see they’re trying to do it properly and hopefully we can go and repeat that on Saturday.”

“In terms of opposition, I think that’s the best we’ve faced this season,” he added. “When we came up against Fleetwood I thought wow, these are a good side. Oxford were a good footballing side, but I thought barring a real silly lapse in concentration we should have got something out of that game.

“Against Wigan, particularly first half, I thought they showed their real quality. I’ll be very surprised if they’re not up there at the end of the season. We’ve just got to make sure we compete like we did second half whoever we come up against.

“We knew this was going to be a real challenging season but it’s a great challenge, we’re all looking forward to getting stuck into it.

“I think what we saw after the break is what you’re involved in football for, to see that type of performance. That’s what we want from the start of every game. If we’re going to be involved in this league and if we want to compete, we’ve got to do it.

“I think we’ve got good players and that we’re a good side. I don’t think we’ve really gone full throttle yet, barring that second half. The way we went about it was much better. We have to make Carlisle United like that, Brunton Park like that, with the players doing what they do, the fans doing what they do.

“I think it’s fair to say the fans got their right back booked in the first half, and we need that, because we’re getting that against us away from home, so we’ve got to have it as well. If we can all work together we can make it a tough place to come.”

Looking at the goal, it was one that came from tracking, pressing and backing each other up as possession was overturned and the ball walloped into the net.

“Sean Maguire actually took the shot on, and it just shows anything can happen when you strike the ball between legs and with a bit of power,” the manager said. “I think it took two or three deflections, which meant the goalkeeper can’t quite judge it, then we’ve got players following up to put it over the line.

“You have to be brave in those areas. There are two types of bravery, going and putting your head in and tackling, and a bravery to do things in the final third and get into the box because you might score. You might miss, but you’ve got to be there to give yourself the opportunity.

“And it was what I wanted. I wanted a goal to get us to believe. I’ve been talking about taking a chance in the final third, about just going and meaning it, whether it be a cross or shot.

“Sean Maguire meant it. Jordan Gibson meant it the way he ran and chased and won the ball back, and then we had a little combination, Sean struck it, takes a bit of a deflection.

“We had another one where Mox struck it and on another it’ll deflect into Jon Mellish’s path and he’s one on one with the keeper, but if you don’t shoot you’re not going to get those chances. I want them to go and do it, be really front foot and go and grab the game by the scruff of the neck.”

On his final message to the players after the game, he said: “I told them well done for the second half, but that’s your level and that’s what we have to do from the start of every game.

“We need to do that, we’re not a team who can sit off and be tippy tappy. We’ve got to be positive so we make this place a really difficult place for away teams to come to. I thought we did that.”


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