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MANAGER: They showed real character

More from Paul Simpson on the Stevenage draw

10 September 2023

Club News

MANAGER: They showed real character

More from Paul Simpson on the Stevenage draw

10 September 2023

It was hot – by heck it was hot – and it needed a huge effort from all concerned to bounce back from a setback either side of the break, and that’s exactly what we got as we took a point from a battling encounter at Stevenage.

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“Do you know what, we deserved at least a point out of today,” manager Paul Simpson said at full-time. “This has been incredible heat, and I’m not complaining about it because I said to the players, let’s use it as a positive because we’ll soon be complaining about it being cold and wet and snow and sleet and everything else.

“I think the way the players went about it for the majority of the game was outstanding. But they were really poor goals to give away, I’m really disappointed with both of them, but we showed tremendous character with grit and determination.

“We also had a little bit of quality and I think this is a really big point because this isn’t an easy place to come to.”

“The thing about getting something here is that you have to come and put a right shift in,” he added. “We’ve done that and I thought we thoroughly deserved a point.

“I really do believe if we’d been more consistent about the way we competed and tracked runners then we could easily have got three. People might say we got a bit of luck with the offside goal, whether it was offside I don’t really know, and they were complaining our first goal was offside.

“I haven’t seen it, I haven’t got a clue. I thought we did a lot of good things at a tough place. These are a really difficult side to play against but thankfully we’re able to take something home with us.”

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Key to the end result was the response to going behind on two occasions.

“I do think they showed real character, and that’s the biggest thing we take away from it,” he told us. “We’ve shown that we can compete, and I said to the players at the end of the game that they’ve got to believe that they’re a good side.

“They’ve got to understand what we’re capable of. We’ve done well in this game, we’ve got into some good areas, created good opportunities, and I thought we defended set plays really well for the most part, and that’s their strength and biggest threat.

“The second goal was such a sucker punch because we have a corner and we don’t lock out, we miss a couple of challenges on the halfway line, and I do think it’s a good finish from the lad.

“He’s given Callum a bit of a torrid time there and he hit it with power, but you’ve got to stop it at source. The biggest thing when you come to Stevenage is that you have to stop the ball as soon as you can and prevent them from getting into the channels and passes off to strikers.

“We didn’t do it well enough on that particular occasion but it’s a really good point for us.”

Picking up on the direct manner of the first goal conceded, he commented: “We knew that was what it was going to be. Everything today was about first contacts and winning second balls.

“We lost the first header, which is going to happen the majority of the time against Piergianni, but you have to track runners.

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“They scored an identical goal to that against Orient, and we showed the players that. We showed them that it was what they had to expect. I asked them at half time what had Stevenage done different to what we said they’d do and it was nothing, they’d done exactly what we expected they would do.

“We were undone by it and it’s those little margins that you’ve got to improve on because we’ve been punished for those fine margins. That said, we’ve shown character and desire, we’ve put an incredible shift in, and we’ve earned a really valuable point.

“I actually thought we started playing before we got our first goal. I thought we were starting to get a couple of passes together and having a bit of control, but then we got done by that first goal.

“It’s a bit of a sickener really, because I thought that when we did get the ball down and play we were ok. We just didn’t do it enough as far as I was concerned.

“Even when we went behind a second time I still had confidence that we had enough quality to be able to get back in it. We changed our shape a little bit, we brought an extra forward player on, and we know we’re good if we can get the right delivery in set plays.

“We’ve got players who can get on the end of them. If we get people making runs we know we can get goals. We always had that belief we could do it, so I’m delighted that we’ve managed to get two. It’s a result that gives us more of a pleasant journey home.”

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On a day like that – the hottest temperature of the year so far – good use of substitutes was always going to play a part in a successful outcome.

“Without a doubt, I always have them what-if scenarios,” he agreed. “I made the three early because I was conscious of not just doing one, I couldn’t take a chance with Jordan Gibson staying on because he had a yellow card, and the ref spoke to him, I think he said something.

“I couldn’t take that chance. I had to get him off. I made the three subs probably earlier than I wanted to rather than just waste one stoppage. But I thought the lads who came on, all of them gave us a different dimension.

“Alfie showed energy, Joe and Terry are a handful, and I’m delighted they were able to help get us something out of it. We’ve got good options to bring on overall.

“I felt as though it was right to play JJ Kayode from the start, we’ve been waiting for him to come into the club, even though it was probably a little bit harsh on Luke Plange.

“I thought he did really well last weekend and this has probably been his best training week as well, if I’m going to be honest with you. He went about it really well. I think there’s a hell of a lot more to come from JJ even though I did think he looked a bit rusty.”

Having been through an exhausting and testing encounter, it’s now about the recovery.

“It’s really important it’s done right and we have a good week to recover,” he said. “We’ll get a bit of downtime and rest, and some time with families, before we start back working again.

“It’s another big away game next weekend and we want to keep building the momentum. Hopefully they’ll all be able to enjoy some time with their families and switch off a little bit from football, make sure they’re professional, then we come back in and start preparing again.

“But the hard work is worth it when you see the fans. They were magnificent and I’m pleased that we’ve got something out of it for them.

“We’ve got something for them to cheer and hopefully it made their journey home a lot better as well. We keep talking about them all the time.

“I’m just so pleased we’re able to get that equaliser and give them something. I think them making that journey here deserved to see something out of the game.

“They’re proper football supporters. They will follow this football team all over the place. We can’t thank them enough for that. It makes such a difference to us, when you come out and see those numbers, and the noise they make.

“Then to be able to go and thank them at the end, on the back of getting a really big point, it’s so important for us. We need to keep together, I’ve said it before, we’re going to have some tough days, but if they stick with us and we stick with them we won’t go far wrong.”


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