United manager Russ Wilcox knows the importance of giving his side time to recover between matches as they reach a critical point in the League Two season.After their 2-0 victory over Plymouth Argyle at Home Park on Saturday, the Iron are now four points clear of fourth-placed Fleetwood Town as they look to complete a return to League One at the first time of asking.
With just nine games of the regular campaign now remaining, United are edging closer to achieving that target, but the 46-year-old is wary of putting too much strain on his players on the training field.
That means plenty of rest between games, and Wilcox told The Iron Player: “The lads were off yesterday [Monday] as I gave them two days off.
“We’d done a week of Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, and you know what it’s like travelling down there [Plymouth] and back. Recovery at this stage is really important with nine to play, certainly for the lads who have played most of the games.
“It’s more about trying to get them right mentally. I think that’s the key to it for the last period; making sure they are right mentally and prepared.
“We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We’re not going to change anything. It’s been a terrific run for 21 games and we’re just trying to keep that going.”
The need to offer certain players the chance to recuperate has seen training sessions take on a slightly different form in recent weeks, and Wilcox added: “We’ve had less numbers today [Tuesday], which isn’t a problem.
“Some lads need the reserve game [against Doncaster Rovers] and some don’t, so it’s structured towards both groups. The lads who are playing on Saturday need less work, and other players need a run out at the moment.
“Obviously there are a few players in between like Paul Hayes and Matt Sparrow who just need topping up fitness-wise as well.”
One factor which has helped the Iron to establish a new club record for the longest undefeated sequence is the quality of competition within the squad, with players challenging each other to perform in order to hold onto their respective spots in the first team.
Equally, United have benefited from having their core players available for the majority of the season, and Wilcox added: “We’ve played 37 games, and some of those lads have played nearly every game.
“It’s important to keep them fresh with a long trip next Tuesday away to Cheltenham, so rest is very important at this moment in time. It will be another day off tomorrow [Wednesday].
“We’ve done it before and it’s important we recover the players properly. That’s the key. It’s been a long season.”
See much more from Russ Wilcox on The Iron Player.