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Club News

MANAGER: The quality wasn't quite there

More from Paul Simpson following the Saturday home game

5 February 2023

Club News

MANAGER: The quality wasn't quite there

More from Paul Simpson following the Saturday home game

5 February 2023

It was a frustrating day for the Blues on Saturday as the division’s top scorers uncharacteristically misfired in the final third, with visitors Harrogate, who failed to register a shot on target, eventually able to claim the points courtesy of a freakish own goal.

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We weren’t at out best, that’s fair to say,” manager Paul Simpson agreed. “It was one of those games where it was trying to certainly minimise mistakes, and trying not to make mistakes at all more than anything.

“It was just one of those days where we were flat. I can’t fault the work ethic, they’ve stuck at it and kept going, and we kept trying to do things right.

“The quality wasn’t quite there in the final third and it’s obviously a mistake for their goal. Credit to Harrogate, they didn’t make mistakes, they defended for their lives and they got some important blocks in.

“Their keeper made a couple of saves but I can’t think of many times that they’ve tested Tomas. I don’t think he had many saves to make. Harrogate stuck to the task, they’ve worked really hard and because of a mistake they go away with what is a big three points for them.”

It is one of those strange things that can happen in football where a team doesn’t test the target but they end up winning anyway.

“It’s just because of that mistake, there’s no two ways about it,” he commented. “We were pushing men forward and we looked comfortable, to be honest with you.

“We didn’t really look as though we were going to struggle. I’m not saying we played well, we didn’t play well at all, and it wasn’t a game where we can claim to have been free flowing.

“It was scrappy from us, there was a little bit of a loss of control, particularly through the last 15 or 20 minutes.

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“It’s disappointing that the run we were on has come to an end, and it’s disappointing in the way that it’s come to an end because really it’s probably a 0-0 all the way, when you look back at it. #

“Look, if you make mistakes you get punished, and that’s what’s happened here.”

The Blues found themselves in good situations on a number of occasions in both halves, but the killer instinct that has been so evident evaded them through the 90 minutes of this game.

“Like I say, we have to give Harrogate some credit because they defended for their lives,” the gaffer told us. “The two centre backs defended well, the full backs supported them, and as a whole team they worked hard.

“They didn’t cause us any problems defensively but it’s not all about just forward play. They defended well and earned the right to be at 0-0 still.

“Luck can come for you when you do that, a bit of misfortune for us, and they got the goal out of it. We have to take it on the chin and because of how it went for them, they deserve the three points.

“To be fair, I can’t fault our players for their work ethic. But that’s rightly so, we shouldn’t ever be faulting effort.

“We’ve got ourselves a great position to be in and there’s so much to look forward to and to strive for, and that’s what makes it really disappointing for us all. It’s an opportunity that we’ve lost, that’s all it is.

“We had an opportunity at home in front of our home fans to try to keep the run going and to add three more points. If we weren’t going to win we wanted to make sure we didn’t lose, and unfortunately that’s what’s happened.”

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Even a second half tweak in shape didn’t manage to bring the type of increase in tempo that was lacking.

“In both halves we got into some good areas, but we didn’t get that final ball or pass right,” he agreed. “We just looked a little bit anxious, we were shooting from long range when there was maybe a chance for another pass to come from it, and that continued through the second half.

“We were almost getting into good areas and there were balls bobbling around in the box that they defended really well. As much as we’re disappointed, I do also have to give Harrogate credit for the way they’ve gone about it. They didn’t make mistakes and they’ve got the points off the back of that.”

The goal came from a ball over the top – the type of situation where defenders have generally gone for safety first.

“I thought it was on for Hunts to head it back to start with, and I’ve watched it back before coming to do the press to try to see what went on,” he said. “I’m a little bit unclear as to what happened.

“If he’s not going to head it back then you just put your boot through and it clear it back over the top. In all fairness, as a team we’d been doing that all game.

“We were clearing our lines well because it was a tricky day for playing. In the first half we had a bit of wind against us and in the second half we had it with us. The ball was going over the top and holding up and we know what a threat Armstrong is, he doesn’t let anybody settle.

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“He chases people down, like he did for Hunts for their goal. It was just a moment of indecision from Paul, and we were punished.

“There was maybe a little bit of miscontrol as well, and I don’t know if he meant to pass it back as Tomas was high, I just don’t really know exactly what the thinking was.

“We all know it was a mistake, we’ve just got to get on with it and look after each other now. It’s not a case of throwing anybody under the bus, we all saw what happened, I don’t need to talk and talk about it.

“As a group we can’t start pointing fingers. Let’s be fair, Paul didn’t mean to do it. It’s just one of those things. It’s an unfortunate mishap and sometimes when you make a mistake, others are there to cover it up for you.

“That didn’t happen this time. I thought Jordan Gibson’s free kick looked like it was going on target, then there was a handball, and Dev almost scored with a good strike after that.

“In all fairness to the keeper normally in a situation like that he’ll usually take a step to his right, but he stood his ground and he made what looks a good save. We just didn’t do enough to really test the keeper or to give ourselves clear cut scoring chances. If you don’t do that you can lose a game to one moment, as happened here.”

On what he said to the group after the game, he said: “There’s no point in saying a lot. The big thing is we’ve just let an opportunity go.

“We can’t criticise them after what’s gone on in the first 28 games. If it was a day where we’d had really good chances and played well, I’d be even more annoyed, but we didn’t quite have the spark that we’ve seen in previous games. That was all over the pitch.

“With our set plays the delivery wasn’t quite right and the entries into the final third were either stopped by the first man or blocked when they came in. The good things we almost did weren’t made to count. It’s gone now, we put it to bed and go again.”

A plus from the day was the size of the crowd – another excellent turnout.

“I think over six thousand is magnificent support,” he said. “I do wonder where the other 2000 from the other night have gone of our home supporters.

“You know, we win 5-1 at home and we have eight and a half thousand home supporters. Now if it's finances, I totally accept that. And I don't really think we could have done any more on Tuesday to encourage them to come back again.

“So let's hope for our next home game that we encourage them to come back again and that’ll start next weekend by getting a good performance away at Wimbledon, and hopefully getting a good result that might make them want to come back again.

“But it’s still a magnificent crowd at home, that number after a Tuesday night home game.”


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