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Daws on fans' importance ahead of final run-in

20 April 2018

Interim manager Nick Daws has issued a rallying call to the supporters ahead of the first home game in four weeks against Walsall on Saturday.

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21 April 2018

United enter the match having won for the first time since the start of February at Charlton Athletic last weekend, and subsequently jumping up from ninth place and back into the League One play-off positions.

The key now is to build on that victory, and Daws told iFollow Iron about the importance of the fans as the club look to turn around their form at Glanford Park for the final three home matches of the regular season.

We fully understand that we’re, in terms of some of the teams in our league, not a big club. As I’ve said before though, I know that at its best here, the home support is excellent and that’s driven by the players on the pitch and the way we set the team up to play. All we ask for is a little bit of patience and understanding. It’s been a frustrating season for the supporters, and we understand that. It’s been frustrating for the players, staff and everyone associated with the club. We kind of made a rod for our own backs a little bit in going a year without a defeat (at Glanford Park). For that to change so dramatically over the last 12 months, and I do look towards the back end of last season in particular as well, that’s something we have to change. All we can do now, myself and Andy (Dawson), is try and change that over a three-game period. We need to treat playing at Glanford Park as a three-game season, we start from scratch and everybody comes with a positive attitude and a will and a desire, which I know the supporters have, to get behind the team. It’s down to us. Also, as we saw at AFC Wimbledon, at stages at Oxford and perhaps less so against Charlton, we can’t always have things our own way. So, at those times when Walsall make it difficult for us, approach our goal and have periods of play and pressure, it’s important the supporters here to a man, woman and child get behind us and see us through those difficult periods. I know for certain that between now and the end of the season here, with the Plymouth and Bradford games on top of the Walsall one, none of those teams are going to roll over and just let us walk towards the goal and put the ball in the back of the net. That’s the war cry I’m asking for. I know if we get that, it might just tip the balance and help us.

We’ve slightly changed the way team looks on paper and we looked at the game on Saturday and asked, at times, Duane Holmes to be a little higher, which meant he was playing in a striker position quite often – supporting Ivan Toney and then for a short period Lee Novak. We’ve been aggressive in how we want our front four to play. They’re the foundation in our attacking play, backed up by our full backs and one of our midfield players at the right time. So long as we’re getting balls in and around their final third and getting our talented players to unlock the opposition defence we’ll be fine. What we’ve done in the last three games is adapt to each situation eventually. It probably took a little longer against Wimbledon, but in the other two games we were outstanding. I’d be surprised if many teams between now and the end of the season allow us the space Oxford did, and that’s where the patience from ourselves and our support will play a massive part.

That was the downside of having the Plymouth game called off because we were really looking forward to coming back here. Obviously, we had a good result at the weekend, we’re unbeaten in the three games since we’ve taken over with five points on the board, which has got us in a good position. We’re looking forward to it and need to be proactive here and take the game to Walsall, get the supporters behind us and hopefully come away with three points. 

I watched them with Lee Turnbull, our head of recruitment, a week ago at Oldham on a difficult pitch in difficult conditions. It was two teams fighting for their lives and scrapping for everything. I expect they’ll do that again. They obviously were beaten against AFC Wimbledon last weekend and will feel it was a bit unfair because they were 2-0 up and lost 3-2, and there were a couple of penalty decisions that didn’t go in their favour. I’m expecting Dean (Keates) to bring a team that’s ready and raring to go. I’ve said all along there’s not a lot between the teams at the top or at the bottom of this league on any given day. We’ve seen that if you don’t play to your maximum you can come unstuck. We will approach the game in the right manner, take the game to Walsall, look to get three points and then move onto the next one. This league, more than any, is very even and it’s been the same in my whole time here. We’ll be fully aware, fully prepared and know we have to be at least as good, if not better than at Charlton on Saturday.

We’ve had three long away trips and it’s been a quick turnaround, so it does need an element of recovery and freshness. We’ve given the boys that this week. They’ve adopted a positive, aggressive attitude to challenge each other (in training). We face the challenge of putting a squad together to approach Walsall. I’m confident from what the boys have shown in the last three games that they’ll be ready. The opposition goalkeepers have been on fine form and that’s prevented us from being more comfortable – for instance the two saves from Ivan Toney and Hakeeb Adelakun at Charlton last week. We looked solid, organised and difficult to break down. We’re pleased with the make-up of the team both in and out of possession.

On Saturday, Lee Novak came on and made an outstanding impact alongside Cameron McGeehan - in particular when we didn’t have the ball. They set the tone, because we changed three of the front four, and made it even more difficult for Charlton. I understand the boys’ frustrations with the squad we’ve got when they’re not in the team. All we can ask is they stay professional, approach each day in the right manner, keep challenging and put themselves in position for a place in the squad initially or into the team if somebody gets injured. As we stand at the moment, everyone is fit and healthy which is good. Luke Williams will miss out, he’s had a scan and will miss the next couple of weeks.

Things can change in the last minute, as we saw with Funso Ojo late on the Thursday prior to the Wimbledon game. Along with everyone else, we’re nursing some of our players through the end of season phase, but the fact they all want to be on that training pitch is a positive, they all want to play a part. The longer that continues and the healthier it is, the more chance we have of picking up the points we need. 

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