United striker Paul Hayes is determined to move on from the late disappointment which saw his side restricted to a point against Bristol Rovers at Glanford Park on Tuesday night.The Iron had held a one goal lead for most of the contest courtesy of a first half header from leading marksman Sam Winnall, and came within inches of doubling their advantage in the second period when Winnall hit the bar with another header.
However, United were pegged back with just two minutes remaining when substitute Steven Gillespie converted Michael Smith’s cross to rescue a draw for Rovers.
Although that late goal caused frustration in the home camp, Hayes told The Iron Player: “It was disappointing to be 1-0 up and concede in the last two minutes, but we need to look at the bigger picture over the whole season.
“We’re 17 games unbeaten, and we’re on a great run. We won’t win every game, but more importantly we’re not losing games.
“If we don’t lose games, we’ll pick up points and get promoted.”
Hayes has found himself out of the starting 11 in the past four outings, with new addition Paddy Madden preferred to partner Winnall in attack in recent times.
Despite that, the 30-year-old has featured as a substitute in the past two matches, and added: “It’s hard to come off the bench and get up to speed with the game straightaway.
“Obviously you only have a certain amount of minutes to do things, but I had two chances against Portsmouth – the first one the goalkeeper made a good save and the second I should have lofted a bit more.
“The last game I came on [against Rovers] I didn’t have any chances, but should have had a penalty when I was brought down. It was just down to me come on and try to create or do something, and that’s my job at the moment.”
Having fallen two points behind leaders Chesterfield after the midweek results, United next travel to Wales on Saturday to face a Newport County side who have had to work overtime recently to clear a backlog of fixtures.
Such an exhaustive run arguably makes it the perfect time to meet Newport, but Hayes said: “We’ll approach it how we do every game; whether it’s Chesterfield up the top or Northampton down the bottom.
“We’re going to go there looking to work hard, to finish our chances, and to get a win. It’s going to be a tough ground to go to, but everyone has to go there during the season so you can’t make those excuses.
“At the end of the day our first rule is to work hard, and if we do that we’ll get the results.”
The primary reason for County’s hectic schedule is the condition of their pitch, which has been the victim of extensive flooding which made the surface unplayable over much of the last month.
Prior to their latest run of three home matches within a week, the Exiles had not hosted competitive football since 4 January, yet Hayes added: “The pitch might not be great, but it’s the same for both teams and if we go there with the right attitude and desire we should come away with the win.
“We’ll create our chances if we work hard – regardless of whether we’re playing at a park or at a stadium. If we use show experience, use the ball wisely, and play to our potential we can play a decent standard of football.
“If we change our game then we’re not going to play to our potential and to the player’s strengths. We might have to weather the storm to start with, but if we start the game well it’s in our own hands.”
One way in which United can gain advanced knowledge of the pitch situation is through Michael Collins, who featured in the AFC Wimbledon side which secured a 2-1 victory against Newport on Tuesday.
Collins is currently on loan at Kingsmeadow, and Hayes admitted: “A couple of the lads have spoken to him, and he’s said the pitch isn’t great.
“Like I’ve said, you can’t make excuses. Wimbledon have gone there and won, so hopefully the sun will be out on Saturday and we can get a win.”
Newport have surprisingly struggled to readapt to playing at Rodney Parade, with the Wimbledon defeat the second in quick succession following a 1-0 reverse at home to Cheltenham three days earlier.
Those losses have seen County slip down the table into eighth place, and Hayes added: “They were within touching distance of the play-offs, so will probably be disappointed with themselves losing the last two home games but that’s not our problem.
“Our problem is concentrating on ourselves, and getting the right personnel out there to get the result. All of us are prepared and ready for Saturday.
“You want to do well for yourself, and do well for the club. They’re obviously on a downer, but that could work against us if they come out all guns blazing and work hard.”
Hayes also expressed how United must play the situation in front of them, and added: “It would help massively if we could get an early goal, but the Accrington game showed our character and determination to turn the game around and win 3-2.
“It’s not the end of the world if we’ve not got an early goal, and the Bristol Rovers game shows that. They’ve scored in the 88th minute to get a draw, and that’s how the games are going now.
“They’re going to the 95th minute or so onwards, and we have to make sure we concentrate throughout.”
See much more from Paul Hayes and Marcus Williams on The Iron Player.