United were given a tough test when they faced Middlesbrough in reserve action over in the north-east on Tuesday afternoon.
Speaking after the game had ended in a 1-1 draw, assistant manager Gav Skelton said: “It’s probably the fair result but the most important thing for us is that it got minutes into the legs of players who, as we saw from how the game started for us, needed that type of game time.
“The reason we wanted the fixture was to get players out there and that was what we got from it, which is good.”
“It was great to see Josh Dixon play in what is a difficult role [wing back] for 45 minutes,” he continued. “He’ll feel much better for that.
“Jamie Devitt got a full 90 minutes, so that’s another real positive but, like I say, it was important for all of them to be out there and involved.
“People needed that game for different reasons, be that coming back from injury, not having featured as much as they would have liked recently, or whatever.
“At times we could see a little bit of rustiness, so it all helps. It took us a good 15 minutes to get our legs going, and that’s all part of it. Once we did, I thought it was a good game.”
And it was an encounter which both sides approached with an excellent attitude.
“It was very competitive, another really pleasing thing is that we kept our discipline, and that’s something we talk about a lot,” he commented. “The manager is constantly reminding the players not to get involved in things and to avoid cards by keeping their discipline, and there were some challenges from both sides that I don’t think anybody will complain about.
“You want to see players competing for things in the right way, be it a reserve game or whatever. Nobody reacted, we kept our composure and got on with it.
“The weather wasn’t the best, so that added to it, particularly the wind. It was a tricky pitch at times, and the wind was gale force when it came in, but hopefully we’ve come through with a clean bill of health and more minutes in the tank.”
Youth team left back Matt Bell was captain for the day, taking on the role with a real sense of pride.
“I thought he gave us a composed performance at Workington last week and he was the same here,” he told us. “I’m pleased for him, and it’s good for the other youth lads to be involved as well.
“They learn a lot from these games. Right through the team we saw some good performances and a good attitude.
“That’s important, because you want to see the right attitude in everything you do. It’s good to get through it, good to not get beat, and we can now look forward to the weekend.”