We’ve got to turn up once again against one of the big boys

Bobby, an important point gained on Tuesday. It took a lot of character to come back from being behind, didn’t it?

It’s still two points dropped, because we conceded in the 95th-minute, but that was the only disappointment of the night. If you take the positives, the lads showed great character to come back from a goal down. They could have folded, but they pulled up their sleeves and dug deep. It was rewarding to see that side of my players

That’s similar to what you said on Tuesday after the game, about there being “lots of positives” to take, one of them being that we got a “point against one of the big boys.”

This is an important thing that we’ve discussed before, how important was it to see us go toe-to-toe with a team in the play-off places?

We went through a bit of a hard spell against three of the top seven teams, so we knew we had to raise our game even more, with more energy and desire, in order to compete against the big boys. We certainly did that on Tuesday night.

We’ve had an unusually tough run of games, so it was always going to be a possibility that we wouldn’t carry on our winning run. But, like you said on Tuesday, there’s nothing major that we need to change.

We’re not panicking. We’re just carrying on building and building. We went on our best winning run in the league in a while, before we were beaten by three brilliant sides who were all in front of us. We could have played better in spells, but we’ve had to adapt to losing key players. We’ve just tried to prepare properly, be tactically ready, and compete like we did on Tuesday night.

We’re used to seeing goals from our forwards, but Charlie and Naz were the players to step up near the end of the game. Is the attacking threat from our defensive players something you like to encourage?

You can’t always rely on your forwards. Goals can sometimes dry up. You need to make sure everyone can contribute over the season. What’s been brilliant this year is that we’ve had defenders who have stepped up when we’ve needed them to. Our strikers have been on fire, but they won’t score every week. In this league you need power, especially on set-plays.

To have Charlie back made a difference. We didn’t have him in the game before Tuesday, so, alongside Calvin Brooks and Joe Cook, we lost our three biggest and strongest players, which meant we lost a bit of power and experience over the last few games. But, that’s why it was so great that we got a point against one of the big teams.

Towards the business end of the season, will the key thing be to adapt to those tough situations?

When I look at some of the bad luck we’ve had with injuries to some of the best players in the league, that’s been a real challenge. But, we’ve not dwelled on it. We’ve just tried to fill in those spaces to the best of our ability with some great loanees. We’ve been wheeling and dealing all season, which has been a challenge, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

We’ve had a brilliant season. The only thing we would like to do is move higher up the table and get rewarded for our hard work.

We had a bit of a break after the Hampton game. Did the in-between period allow for the boys to regroup and reflect on both the highs and lows of our recent results?

That weekend off was brilliant, as I got the boys on the training pitch so I could coach them how to be more organised. It’s important to remember that these are young players who aren’t used to being tactically aware in non-league football. We worked extremely hard to prepare for a team who could’ve given us a really challenging night. St Albans one of the best footballing sides in the league, but, as you saw, we absolutely dominated them in the second half.

It’s important to remember that this time last year, we were on the same number of points as Dover. They’re rock-bottom. We’re now on 42 points, which shows just how much we’re progressing.

It seems like a really pleasing thing for you is that you’ve seen our young players bounce back from setbacks.

That was really key to me. I had to install the idea of bouncing back into them, as it’s tough to be part of a young squad in this league. It was daunting to have the run of fixtures that we had. Playing the top seven four four games on-the-bounce, I don’t think any other club will have to do that this year.

But, we’re only five points off Torquay, who have one of the best squads in the league. If we beat them, we’ll be only two points behind. When you sit back and analyse, we’re in a really good place. But, we’ve got to turn up once again against one of the big boys, this time a full-time unit with an unbelievable squad.

Our last game against Torquay was one which was a great performance which resulted in an unfortunate loss. Besides any confidence that may give lads who played in the game, how much has the last result proved as motivation to put on a good performance AND get points?

When we went to Torquay this season, we had a few lads in our squad that hadn’t played in front of a crowd like that before, but they will have learnt from that game. This weekend they’ll be playing Torquay with more experience under their belt.

I’d rather play excellently against Torquay on Saturday and take a point. We’ll be trying to get all three, but I don’t want to play excellent and not get a result.

Expanding from that, it’s also a chance for them to play in front of the Terras faithful against a team who already know how dangerous we can be.

I don’t think the fans realise just how much we respect their commitment to come and support us. We talk every week about how much we see their passion. They’ve been doing that for years, but, in this present moment, we thank them for what they are doing.

We understand we need to give them good performances, and, apart from two or three matches, we’ve put on a show. We’re doing our best for the football club.

As always, what has been the key message to the players going into tomorrow’s game?

Learn from your past experiences. Don’t be feared by the bigger clubs. If we turn up as a team and do our jobs individually, we’ve got the opportunity to be a giant killer.

Interview by
Jack Webb

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