United were two goals to the good with just two minutes played against Salford on Saturday, with youth boss Mark Birch praising the hard work ethic of his team as a major contributing factor to what was an excellent overall performance.
“I think a result like that has been coming for a while,” he told us. “Even though recent results haven’t looked that way, we did say within the week that somebody was going to be on the end of a smashing from us, and that all came together on Saturday.
“I think that was a reward for how the lads have gone about their work since we’ve come in. We have worked hard, we have asked a lot of them, we’ve pushed them, and it shows that if you do all of that the results will come along the way.”
But having romped to a four-goal lead we wondered what the message would be during the half-time break.
“We warned them not to get complacent,” he confirmed. “To be honest, for 10 minutes before the break we weren’t happy with the way were playing because we allowed ourselves to get sloppy and that meant they got a few opportunities.
“It’s important to keep the momentum going whatever the score is, and I know it can be hard when you’re three or four goals up, because the lads can slip into a sort of comfort zone.
“You have to be in the mindset that standards have to remain high and you have to keep doing the right things and keep being ruthless.
“At half-time it gave us the chance to make four substitutions, and we then made the fifth change fairly early after that, and the pleasing thing is that everybody is fit and they all have game time under their belts ahead of the Tuesday game.”
It stands to reason that a big win like that is bound to breed confidence.
“I think it helps with morale and belief,” he tod us. “All of a sudden there’s a bit of belief there, we could see lads playing with their heads up and there was a really good feel around the game.
“Sometimes when you keep saying that hard work will get is through a spell where we haven’t been winning games, it can be hard for the lads to keep hearing it.
“But if you make sure you aren’t going to take your foot off it and start feeling sorry for yourself, things do turn for you.
“The last two games - with a 0-0 against Blackpool and this one, and with a few friendlies in between up at Rangers and Hearts - have shown the lads that it’s by continuing to do the work that you eventually get there.
“The game at the weekend was a really pleasing performance, so hopefully they’ll look back at the long training sessions we’ve been doing and the constant reminders to work hard, work hard, work hard, along with the long talks we’ve had, and they’ll see they’ve been worth it. Hopefully we’re now turning a corner.”
What recent games have brought is regular scorers, with Robbie Swinburn on nine for the season in all competitions and Romeo Park on and Romeo Park on five.
“Centre forwards and attacking players are judged on numbers, it’s a numbers game for them,” he said. “With good performances a lot of people always ask who has scored the goals, and their names are regularly coming up.
“They get noticed that way, so I make sure the message to them is that it’s about their overall performance, but they have to make sure that their numbers are clocking up as well.”
At the other end second-year centre back Josh O’Brien will be teaming up with Workington on what will be a valuable work experience spell.
“It’s good for Josh, he’s a player who has great potential because of his size and he’s a good athlete,” he said. “What he didn’t really do was believe in himself. He didn’t have that at all, and he needed to work harder.
“We had some really harsh conversations with him about working harder because we can’t be the ones doing all of it with him, he has to produce it on his own as well.
“We told him that with the physique he has it’s on him to do the gym work to make sure that his body is capable of handling the role and, to be fair to him, for the last three or four weeks he’s done that.
“Danny Grainger comes in each week and does a couple of sessions with him, and he lost a centre back and he said right, I’ll take a gamble on Josh.
“It’s up to Josh now, but it’s great for him because he’s now playing in front of 7-800 people every week with Workington and it’s the next thing in his personal progression that he needs.”
“I’m sure there are other lads that Danny could have gone out to get but to show that belief in Josh and what he can do is really good for the lad.
“Josh has trained well, and we also have Paul Boertien who has been having a lot of chats with him as well. He’s been telling him that he’s going to waste it if he didn’t wake up.
“He said to him that everything he could achieve in football comes down to him, and I think Paul also spoke to him about making sacrifices along the way, so that was good for Josh to hear it from players who have done it.
“These are the kind of people we’ve got with us now, and hopefully they do listen to the advice and, as with Josh, when the chance like this comes you wish him all the best.”
United – Barry, Atkinson, Nicholson, Walsh, O’Brien (Fleming 45), Allan (Murray 45), Chapman (O’Donoghue 45), Hetherington (Hopper 45), Swinburn (Parker 45), Fitzpatrick, Park.
Goals – Hetherington (1, 38), Swinburn (2, 40), Atkinson (80), Hopper (88)
Booking – Allan
Match highlights are here: