On not playing well but winning...
I think that to achieve any success over the course of a league season, you’re going to have to do that. The game was tough on Saturday, their home record prior to Saturday was very good and the game reflected how well they’ve done at home.
I think we were always going to show moments of quality in the game as long as we gave ourselves a platform to go and win it. Obviously, we did that at the weekend.
On the atmosphere on Saturday...
It’s something that we’ve had to face all season, but the players have now adjusted to it and I think they know what’s coming in that respect. So, it’s not like their group of players haven’t faced big atmospheres before, it’s just different. In the sense that Sunderland being in League One and then going to visit a lot of grounds that they either haven’t done ever before or haven’t done for a long, long time.
That creates an interest around the matches and has ignited the interest of home supporters. In fairness, the home supporters at the grounds we’ve been to have responded, they’ve given their team terrific backing. Then the numbers we’ve taken, we’re going to take another 4,000-tomorrow night, so that again will ignite the atmosphere.
We’re now adjusted to it I think and that’s been reflected in the performances. A group of players now that are used to those type of atmospheres.
Are you close to reaching top gear?
I suppose it’s the balance between what we’re expected to be like in this league and I think that there’s still a little bit of adjustment for some people who feel as if we will automatically win games comfortably every week. There’s nothing wrong with believing you’ll win every week, but it’s very difficult to do so in this league.
So, there is that argument to say that we haven’t been absolutely fantastic in any game. There have been games where we’ve been good and there’s parts of games where we’ve been good. So, if you break down aspects of our record this season, the number of games we’ve lost, obviously only one. The wins we’ve had, the number of goals we’ve scored, we’ve scored in every game. Even defensively, I’ve sat here often enough and got asked about clean sheets and yet, despite only two, I think we’ve got the fourth best defence in the league.
So, there’s a lot of things when you break them down individually that we’ve been good at this season and if it is the case that we’ll get better, then that’s reassuring for me as a manager to know that we’re sitting where we are in the table and improvement is still there for us.
On the depth of the squad...
I think the depth of the squad should be an advantage for us, the quality of that depth is probably more important to stress, rather than just the depth of it. I’ve also seen it before where clubs have had depth to their squad, quality in depth, but it doesn’t help them. It’s then my responsibility to ensure that these players are willing to make a contribution, but then also the types of players you have within your squad. As individuals, none of them that whenever they’ve found themselves not involved have not responded in the correct manner.
So, Saturday was a brilliant example, Lynden and George who have been really good for me this season, individually. Disappointed obviously because they want to play all the time, but their performance when they went on was brilliant. Luke O’Nien who is slightly different in that he’s just not had as many opportunities, but he’s never allowed his approach or attitude to drop one bit.
So, that is encouraging, it’s alright having the depth and the quality in depth, but you need to have players that each and every time they’re on the pitch are hungry to make the most of the opportunity and luckily, that’s what we have at the moment.
On the psychological difference of being in the top 2...
I’m not sure, I think more psychologically for us is knowing that we’re on track, if you like. We speak often enough about what you need to achieve over the course of a season, points wise. About two points a game will get you pretty close to either achieving promotion or winning the league, although a little bit more than that to win the league, but it will still get you very close.
We’re bang on track for that and we want to nudge that up, obviously. I think psychologically, it’s more just keeping as close to that track as we can and if we can remain consistently close to that, we’ll be OK. I just think that recent performances and results has probably strengthened the belief that the players can go on and have a successful season, rather than the table itself. I know we’re 13 games in, but I still think that the table is settling down a little bit, as difficult as it is in this league. I think it might take another half a dozen games before it settles completely into a pattern.
On Josh Maja needing a rest...
Well, he’s had an ongoing issue with his ankle, nothing major, just something that’s troubled him a little bit. So, he’s had to play with that over the last two or three games. He just had a performance on Saturday that dipped below the levels that he’s been showing. He’s going to get that, he’s 19-years old and this is the first season we’re he’s played consistently, week in, week out and he’s not missed a league game since the start of the season.
Not just physically, but mentally, that’s a challenge for a young player. It was just one of those days where he wasn’t quite at his best, but the contribution he’s made to the season has been great so far and he’ll keep doing that. We’ve got a duty to how we manage him properly over the course of the season because his target should be to play 35/45 games, league and cup. If he does that at 19-years old, then that is good for him moving forward.
On the quick turn around between games...
Well, it’s been a new experience for me in the respect of the travelling aspect of it. It’s not unusual for me to have to face Saturday and Tuesday games, but with Saturday being away from home and a decent travel for us as well and then the turn around to travel again tomorrow, all be it a bit closer.
It limits the amount of time you can work on the pitch with the players, it limits the amount of time you’ve got to get information across. I think we knew that before hand so it’s not a shock when it comes around. There’s an adjustment of sorts, but equally it’s planned for. The players were out on the pitch this morning and naturally results help. You tend to find that any fatigue, either mentally or physically, diminishes a bit when you’re winning games.
What are you expecting from Doncaster?
A team that’s obviously had a good season to date, consistently good, obviously they’ve remained in the top five or six positions over the course of the season. John and James watched them earlier on in the season and were really impressed and everything I’ve seen of them, I think they play in a really positive manner in terms of how they pass the ball.
Maybe that’s good for us tomorrow because we’ve came against different styles this season. But, everything I’ve seen of Grant and his team, has been a team that tries to go and play football. I think the stadium and the environment will be one that we will enjoy tomorrow as well. I expect a difficult game against a team that to be where they are after 13 games, they can only be a good side.