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MANAGER: We've got to go and show what we're about

Paul Simpson ahead of the Portsmouth game

20 October 2023

Club News

MANAGER: We've got to go and show what we're about

Paul Simpson ahead of the Portsmouth game

20 October 2023

United head to face unbeaten Portsmouth this weekend determined to replicate their last away game at Bolton, which brought their best performance of the season so far.

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“It’s a brilliant game to look forward to, I really think it is,” manager Paul Simpson said. “I said to the players this morning that last season they earned the right to be involved in these games, so we have to relish them when they come.

“We’re going to a really good stadium against a good team who haven’t lost. They’re sitting at the top of the table because that’s where they deserve to be, so it’s a great challenge for us and one we’ve got to go and really embrace - and give it our best shot.

“We’re there because we deserve to be there. The league table isn’t pleasant for us at the moment but Portsmouth will be thinking everything is rosy in the garden.

“They’ve not lost, they’re sitting top of the table, they’ve had an international break where they can rest and recover, and their manager got manager of the month. We’ve got to go down there and make sure we spoil that, that’s all we can do. We need to make sure we have a level of performance that deserves to get something out of the game.”

As is always the case, previous results can be made to count for nothing with the right kind of display.

“They’re going to have a whole host of players who are doing well when they’re sitting top of the league,” he told us. “I think they’ve had eight wins and four draws, which tells you they’re doing well as a group.

“We’ve got to go there and make it as difficult as we can for them to get their game going, but also show what we’re about. We showed what we’re about at Bolton, but unfortunately we didn’t do it in the next league game against Orient.

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“The next chance to show what we are is Portsmouth away. It’s one of those games where everybody has probably already made their mind up that it’s going to be a home win, but we have a chance to make it something different, and that’s what we intend to do.”

And it’s always an excellent atmosphere at Fratton Park, with somewhere near 700 United fans expected to make the trip.

“I think they get a great atmosphere down there,” he agreed. “I’ve played there a few times in my career and it’s a really good place to go and play.

“Like I say about all places, they’re only good places if you get a performance and a result, and that’s the only thing on our mind at the moment.

“It’s a long journey, but there’s no point worrying about things like that. I worry more for the fans than us. We’ll go down on Friday and prepare properly.

“We’ve just got to deal with it, we know Portsmouth and Exeter are long trips, but so what. It’s brilliant to be involved in these games and I’m really looking forward to this one.

“The fans are following us in their numbers and they want to be part of it, so it’s up to us to keep them part of it. We’ve got to perform and show the right work-ethic, and if we do that we’ll make it a good day. If we don’t then we know we have to take whatever comes from that.

“We’ve all got the memory of what happened the other week at Bolton and at other away games where we’ve gone and performed.

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“We want to keep that and give ourselves a fighting chance by performing and hopefully gets us a result which ultimately gets us moving up the league table into a better position.

“The numbers, it’s incredible, absolutely superb. We can’t thank them enough. I know the only way we can thank them is by putting on a performance. That’s all I want.

“I want to be able to put on a performance, I want to be in a position where we can go over at the end and thank them and celebrate with them. That’s all we can do. It’s brilliant they’re making that sort of journey down, absolutely superb, and hopefully it carries on.”

That recent Bolton experience has to be something the team can tap into, with that type of approach almost unplayable for the opposition.

“Portsmouth are different in how they go about it,” he commented. “They have a front four who are a real handful, in the two wide players, whichever of the number tens play and the striker Bishop. They’re a real threat.

“But it’s a game that we have to go and put our game onto them, and try and cause them problems. We’ve looked at quite a few of their games and identified areas where we think we can exploit them.

“Nobody else has been able to do it this season but I do think that the longer these unbeaten records go on for, they’re going to end at some point. We’ve just got to approach it that we want to be the ones who end it. 

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“And you have to lean on the things you’ve done in the past. We’ve just got to approach it in the right way, that’s the only focus we’ve got - making sure we prepare properly, get travelled down there properly and approach the game as positively as we can.”

Highlighted as one to watch is the dangerous Colby Bishop, who is a real focal point for the Pompey Chimes.

“He’s just got that hunger that you see in players who come through non-league,” the manager said. “He’s somebody who’s had to go out and do a proper day job.

“Looking at the games I’ve watched with him in it, he chases everything down, so there’s no let-up for centre-backs, they’re going to have to be at it for the whole game.

“You know the way they play they’ll put crosses in the box, and he’s going to be in there. It’s a challenge, but it’s a brilliant one. If you’re going to achieve success by getting promoted, you have to be prepared to raise your level and compete against a better standard, and that’s what Portsmouth are showing at the moment. 

“For us, we need to get rid of the types of errors that cost us the goal against Orient. We’ve got to be better in both 18-yard boxes, that’s the top and bottom of it.

“If I go over that last game, in the first half we’ve got to be better all round. We’ve got to have a better tempo and more life about us, and we’ve just got to play much better than we did in the first half.

“We end up going in a goal down because of a poor goal to give away, and second half we had a bit more about us, but the lesson is we can’t start any game like that.

“If I go back to metrics that we can actually measure, working is the basic requirement for us, we have to have a great work-ethic.

“We had nine or ten players against Bolton who ran over 10km, and against Orient we had four. You can take football out of it, but football is a running game and if you don’t do it you’re going to give yourself problems.

“They know that, the players have been shown and told it. We can’t have such a gulf between the level at Bolton then the level we got against Forest and Orient.

“It has to be closer and we’ve got to have more consistency. On top of that, we’ve got to be much better with the football, particularly in both 18-yard boxes.”

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