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MANAGER: It was a group performance

More from Paul Simpson on the midweek win

25 January 2023

United put on an excellent Tuesday night performance at Brunton Park as they put Hartlepool to the sword with a clinical and exciting display.

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Speaking after the game, manager Paul Simpson said: “It was huge for us because it was a group performance. That includes the lads who came off the bench because they had an impact and made a difference, so I’m really pleased.

“We said to them before kick-off that we needed to start the game properly, we needed to get at them, because we understand the issues Hartlepool are having at the moment.

“We know the problems because we were there ourselves at this stage last season. When you go into a game and the opposition give you a lift you can suddenly start to play with a bit of freedom.

“They could easily have built on what they did on Saturday with their win, but I thought we were ruthless in the way we didn’t allow that to happen. The way we set about things got us two goals to the good, so I was disappointed with the goal we conceded.

“We didn’t let that affect us or get us down, we stayed with it, and I don’t even know how many individuals had their best game of the season for us, but there was quite a few of them. I thought we got really good performances from everybody in the group.”

Having conceded the goal so soon after establishing a cushion, it was important to see a positive reaction – which is exactly what came.

“I thought we picked ourselves up and we defended as a team, from the front,” he agreed. “We worked hard, we kept the shape in midfield and everybody closed down and defended.

“We made ourselves hard to play against and we had the keeper taking crosses to nullify things as well. All in all it was a really good defensive performance and a deserved result.

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“I didn’t feel we were going to go under. You’ve got that threat that one little slip or piece of good football from them could cause that problem. I just thought we were in control.

“The players showed good leadership out there to keep control of the game, which is what we have to have. I can’t really do a hell of a lot from the sidelines once that starts.

“I thought the players managed the game really, really well. They showed a professional attitude towards it, and we’re going to need it again.”

On the goals scored, he told us: “It was a brilliant start. Getting the first one from a set piece - Gav keeps mixing the set plays up and trying different things.

“He does a lot of studying of things we can do to test the opposition and identify where their weaknesses are. It’s a goal scorers’ instinct from Denno to get across the near post and get that flick, and that made the keeper commit to a save.

“Morgan Feeney then has a tap-in, so it was a really good goal. Coming so early it gave us a real lift and we were able to carry it through that first period of the game.

“And the fans helped with that. They were fantastic and I’ve got to say that I’m so pleased that we got over 5,000 people. I fully expected to lose out on maybe 1,500 or 2,000 with it being a Tuesday night, so to still get over the 5,000 is absolutely brilliant support.

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“I can tell you that the lads really appreciate it, and we’ve just got to keep going because we need their support over these last 20 games.”

Helping everybody to feel up for the encounter was the manner in which the team started the night.

“My last message to them in our meeting this evening was find a way to win, but we’re going to have to be patient, because I really thought they were going to come, make it hard to play against, and really shut up shop,” he explained.

“I thought they went a bit bigger and physical, but we just started well, started front foot, started with energy. Defensively we were strong and I just thought in midfield we had real control about the way we played as well. 

“It was a thorough and professional performance from the whole group. The lads who came on had an impact, so I’m really pleased.

“Like I say, I think the players helped to make it a great atmosphere with the way they did things. We needed to be strong and physical to deal with that and we showed some really good pieces of quality.

“We had the type of deliveries from crosses and set pieces that create chances and goals, we had Denno with his instinct, and we’ve got defenders like Morgs chipping in as well. We put ourselves in a really good position and I think that’s what our fans responded to.”

Coming at the start of a busy run it was a good way to set a marker and standards, with so many points to play for.

“I think the way we started the game was the statement of intent,” he said. “I stand up in the directors’ box and watch them warming up, I thought the warm up looked really good, I thought they looked at it.

“I was a bit concerned because I watched Hartlepool and they were warming up well. But I just thought the way we went about the game, we killed any enthusiasm that they had coming into it, particularly with that early goal.

“It gave them a bit of a lift when they got back that goal, but then I thought we managed the game really well, and finished it off with a fantastic third goal.” 

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