Saturday’s home victory over Grimsby was yet another performance built on hard work and solidity, with a second half display that restricted the visitors to just one clear-cut chance as everybody worked hard to protect the two goal cushion.
Excellent finishes from Alfie McCalmont and Jordan Gibson took the hosts into the break in the driving seat, and it was the boys in blue who once again looked the more likely to add to the tally as they had the better of the chances in the second period.
Speaking about the clean sheet and the win, manager Paul Simpson said: “There were very few chances in the first half, but the first goal comes from a really good work ethic from Omari Patrick and Alfie McCalmont with them pressing well and winning it back.
“It’s a fantastic finish from Alfie to bend it in the way he did, so I’m really pleased with that. It was one of those games where I really didn’t know what to expect from Grimsby, I didn’t know what sort of mood they were going to come here in.
“When I saw the team sheet they’d made seven changes, which meant a change to the shape I expected to see, and I thought they were good with the way they approached it.
“I thought they had energy about them and I thought they were all probably showing a desire to be involved in the FA Cup quarter final game that they have coming up.
“I thought we saw the game out with a really professional second half performance and I’m absolutely delighted that it’s the next one chalked off, and we now have 12 left to go.”
And there was praise for stopper Tomas Holy who made a fantastic one-handed save early in the game, when Grimsby enjoyed a decent spell of pressure.
“I thought that was a great bit of skill from Lloyd,” the manager said. “He plucked it out of the sky and volleyed it straight away. That’s why it was a really good save from Tomas, really good.
“I’m delighted with that. I know there’s always grumbles and moans coming from the crowd when Tomas is involved in things, which I think is a little bit unfair, but to do that at 0-0 is superb and it kept us in the game.
“It was a brilliant save, it really was. When you’re six foot however big it isn’t easy to get down, get your feet moving and do that. He’s been coming out and collecting things more in recent games and we’ve had 14 clean sheets, so he can’t be doing all bad.”
The good start from Grimsby prompted a very quick change to thinking and shape as the home team looked to take the upper hand.
“I felt through the early part of the game that I wanted to change the shape because they changed theirs from what we expected to see,” he explained. “I had this thing in mind that we needed to move around, but I couldn’t get the message on.
“Once I did I thought we took a little bit of control and we started to string passes together. We were calmer in midfield, and I think that’s certainly what led to the second goal.
“The first goal was more about being in better positions from our shape to be able to press. Omari and Alfie did a two-pronged attack and turned it over, and that was brilliant from them. I hoped the change would make a difference and thankfully it did.
“We talked before the game about being ruthless in both boxes, and at half time that was my overriding message, to go and be ruthless for the last 50 minutes of the game.
“As it was it was only 48, but I wanted us to go and really put them to bed. We didn’t do the ruthless bit in terms of our final third stuff, but we were certainly ruthless in terms of how we defended.
“All of the defenders did their jobs and Corey Whelan came on and did his job as well. It was just a very good professional second half.
“I think they only had the one chance, when Lloyd had the header that hit the post, but I don’t really think Tomas had too much else to do. He maybe came to punch a cross, but there weren’t really any other chances. As a team it was just a really strong defensive performance.”
Speaking more about the shape, he added: “The truth is that we had to change it a little bit, to go to a back four, because I thought that Amos was getting out too easily.
“We changed it and put Morgan to right back, and pushed Gibbo a little bit higher, and we were just in a little bit of an unfortunate situation today in that we didn’t have a recognised right wing back available.
“With us being at home I wanted to stay positive and that’s why I started with Jordan. We were just getting done a little bit, I felt, so that’s why we changed it.
“We then had to change it back again when they changed what they were doing, and I think the players again are showing that they’re adaptable and they can change when needs be. Thankfully the work they did was enough to see us through.”
Both of United’s goals came in what was a devastating 15-minute first-half spell.
“We did play some good stuff and I thought Alfie and Mox picked up some good positions to get balls into little pockets,” he said. “They were looking to work off their midfielders and their defenders.
“Again it was just that execution of the final pass with a cross going in or with a slide pass, or whatever. We just didn’t quite get that final bit right, but there was some really good football.
“In the second half it was a really professional attitude to see the game through. We’ve got a lot of good players, and they enjoy getting after the ball and making things happen.
“We talked about it last week on those transitions and that again is my one negative comment. I said to them in the changing room that we have to be better when we get the ball in those situations.
“I want us to continue to try and improve because with the quality that we’ve got with our midfielders and with the runners we’ve got ahead of them, we should be a bit more ruthless than we are.
“I think we’ve had some really good opportunities on the counter attack in recent games and if we’d been a little bit better with our decision making we’d have scored even more goals. But that’s me being picky again.
“A 2-0 victory at home at this stage of the season is a really good victory for us. I am pleased with a lot of the things that we did. I think the lads worked extremely hard against a side that was lively and they had a bit about them.
“The second goal, I kept saying to Gibbo that when he got himself one against one around the 18-yard box that I wanted him to be really positive.
“I was delighted when he did that because he’s been close to getting goals on so many occasions this season, so it was good to see that go in. I thought he worked extremely hard, he worked his socks off, which I’m so pleased about.
“I’m asking the players to run as hard as they possibly can in games, because for me the harder you work the luckier you get and the more chance you get of winning games. That’s what Jordan Gibson did for us today.”