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Club News

MANAGER: It was all over the pitch

More from Paul Simpson on the Doncaster game

2 January 2023

Club News

MANAGER: It was all over the pitch

More from Paul Simpson on the Doncaster game

2 January 2023

United ended the game pushing for an equaliser at Doncaster on New Year’s Day but their rallying cry was ultimately left just a little bit too late as the home team held on to claim the three points they probably deserved.

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Speaking afterwards, manager Paul Simpson said: “We were poor from the start, but I suppose the good thing is that we showed good character with the way we ended the game.

“We had a few little skirmishes around their goalmouth, but they started better than we did. It really is as simple as that.

“They got themselves into a good position but I’m really disappointed with both goals we conceded. Then again, I would probably say that about every goal we let in, I don’t like them.

“The simple fact is that we weren’t at it from the start. That’s the big worry and the disappointment for me.

“Another disappointment is that Doncaster were teetering on the edge of being vulnerable and I felt that if we could start the game properly we could gain a real foothold in the game.

“Sadly we allowed them to do that and credit to them because they deserved the victory.”

Always difficult, particularly when the team has been in good form, is the search for the reason behind a performance that can be deemed to be below par.

“It was just all over the pitch,” he insisted. “We couldn’t control it, we couldn’t pass it, and we lost the important duals. We didn’t win first contact enough and we were late onto second balls.

“It’s the whole host of things that combined to make it a poor day for us. You can maybe make the excuse of tiredness, but Doncaster were in the same position.

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“They just had a bit more life than we did. That’s really all I can say. We’ve had a great Christmas period leading up to this with the two wins, and this was another opportunity for us. Sadly it’s one we haven’t taken.”

The slow start was punished by an early goal as Rovers came out of the blocks looking to take the game to their visitors.

“It was frustrating because we could have stopped the lead-up to the first goal a few times,” the manager commented. “I have to say, I don’t think the keeper can be beaten there, it’s as simple as that. He shouldn’t be beaten like that. It should be saved.

“In any game at any level you can’t go a goal down against teams. I know there’s been a few times this season where we’ve recovered, but you don’t want to put yourself in that situation.

“It’s not a lesson, because we know it. We’ve just got to take it on the chin and move on. Too many times we gave the ball back, passed it to them, and that’s not what we’ve been like. We’ve been better than that.

“There was no cleanness in any of the work we did and we didn’t help each other out enough. We really let ourselves down with our lack of control. If you can’t pass the ball to each other you’re going to cause yourselves a real problem.

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“We kept giving it back to them and that’s down to the fact that we weren’t at it. Nothing felt right about us. Unfortunately I didn’t feel that there were changes I could have made to freshen it up.

“Obviously we had the two enforced changes but we didn’t have enough in my mind to do anything differently. That’s cost us, so whether it’s a lack of energy, I’m not sure. I just think our quality on the ball was poor.

“It was great character towards the end to keep pushing, and well done Kris Dennis for getting another good finish to his name. Maybe on another day Morgan Feeney gets up really well to get on the end of a fantastic ball from Jack Armer, but he couldn’t quite get high enough to get above the ball and head it down.

“But I think we’d be clutching at straws if we said that we deserved to get a draw out of it. On the balance of the way we played we probably didn’t.”

Looking at the changes made in personnel and formations throughout the game, as he tried to help to find a spark, he commented: “When you’re making substitutions, you have to think where they’re going to affect the game.

“Everybody will have an opinion, and I can’t worry what other people’s opinions are, I have to do what I think’s the right thing. Me and Gav were discussing it, and at the time we felt as though there was an opportunity with what we had there.

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“There was Jayden with his legs, Callum was doing a decent job screening, Moxon was doing a good job, Jon Mellish was showing energy in midfield, so it was a case of thinking about where do you put Jamie Devitt on.

“We made a decision just to try something different. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure if it was going to make us better, I just had to try something different by putting Mox in there and taking Callum off.

“The truth is I didn’t think Callum deserved to come off. Everybody has an opinion, we accept that, and if we’d got something out of the game it would have been the right thing. Whatever I did it’s shown up to be not the right thing because we’ve lost.”

On what he said the players afterwards, he told us: “I’ve told them that I think it’s an opportunity missed. It’s the next game we wanted to do right, and we wanted a result to keep ourselves going.

“We talked about it being a 14-day break before the next game and that’s a long time to sit on the back of a poor performance.

“We finished the game strong, I accept that, but overall it’s really disappointing to come away with another defeat on our tally.

“The top and bottom of it is that we were sloppy as a group. We weren’t what we have been, and I’m not going to throw my toys out just because of this, but we’ve got to understand that we can’t take things for granted.

“Things don’t just happen, you have to make it happen for you. I need to look at the reasons why that might be the case, be it selection or preparation, and we can see where we went wrong.

“If we look at the first goal, there’s no communication. There’s a throw-in on the far side, we’ve set up ok, we’ve got a marker and screener in front, I just think there was a few times where there was a lack of communication to tell players there was somebody running behind them.

“We allowed Miller to get the ball into the far post, and yeah, Joel should have dealt with it better, and maybe in a couple of games time he’ll deal with that instinctively, but there was a rustiness, and maybe even a nervousness, which is absolutely understandable with what he’s been through.

“I still think he could have been rescued and we wouldn’t be talking about it now, but nobody did.

“The second goal was messy as well. We’re chasing the game at that point, trying to get ourselves back into it,  and it was a bit too easy for them to get out on this side in front of the dugouts.

“Miller’s made a run off, Tomas has tried to see it out and unfortunately the defenders have gone back to the goalline because Tomas was out, and the ball’s gone in front of them and they weren’t able to do it.

“There’s lots of mistakes. But with all goals there’s mistakes. The goals aside, we haven’t dealt with the game well enough to be able to warrant saying we deserved something out of it.”

Most definitely doing their bit on the day were the 1,222 away fans who made the journey.

“They were absolutely magnificent again, and even at the end they were still there because they could see we were trying to get ourselves back in it,” he said.

“We gave them a bit of a lift with a fantastic goal from Kris Dennis, which keeps him ticking over, but we just didn’t do enough over the 90 minutes to get something out of the game for them.

“Fair play to them to make the journey and to back us like they have. I just wish we could have given them a result.”


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