United manager Nick Daws said the point versus Walsall was a decent one on reflection.
The Iron drew 1-1 against the Saddlers at Glanford Park on Saturday, with Lee Novak’s powerfully struck opener cancelled out by a Zeli Ismail penalty.
It was a game that saw a first start for Matthew Lund, and debuts for George Thomas and substitute Ryan Colclough, while Josh Morris returned to action as a late substitute following a thigh problem in pre-season.
Speaking to iFollow Iron after the game, the boss said: “We knew coming into the game what to expect from Walsall, as we’d done our homework on them. We knew we’d face a lot of long balls on turnover, because of their two strikers – one powerful and one quick. We knew that would be a challenge for us and I felt we got a little pre-occupied with it a touch.
“There were a lot of set-plays, corners and long throw-ins. In the main, we dealt with it really well. When you get that thrown at you, eventually some of it might stick and credit to the boys for defending as resolutely as we possibly could do, although we did give them some opportunities that we’ll look back on and possibly be disappointed with.
“In possession, I thought in spells we got what we were looking for. But for too much of the game I didn’t get enough of it. We need to move the ball quicker, it’s always difficult early season, and especially against a team that drops in like Walsall did. We were probably at our bravest in the final ten minutes when we had two wingers playing in midfield alongside James Horsfield.”
Novak opened the scoring soon after half-time with his first strike of the season, and Daws said it was thoroughly deserved for his hard work on and off the ball.
He explained: “It’s a great goal fo Novs, I’m really pleased for him. He does so much work for the team that goes unnoticed at times, both in and out of possession, to create space for other people that he probably doesn’t get the rewards he’s due.
“I’m delighted though because it’s an outstanding strike. At that point I expected us to take the game to Walsall a little bit more but, as sometimes happens, you just drop off a little bit and don’t commit because of a little bit of fear. I’ve said to the players in the changing room that we can’t play with fear, we have to play with bravery and keep passing the ball. I want the supporters to come here and be excited in what we give them – win, lose or draw.”
Speaking about the penalty incident which led to Walsall’s equaliser, as Matthew Lund was adjudged to have brought down Zeli Ismail, Daws continued: “My initial thought was that Lundy shouldn’t have gone to ground. We were in the process of trying to bring him off because he’d got cramp, but we couldn’t get the substitute on quick enough. It happened with them as well though during the game. My initial reaction was he got something on the ball, and enough on the ball, for it not to be a penalty.
“The referee’s assistant told me he had a poor angle, which surprised he because he was right in front of the ball 12 or 14 yards away. The referee said at the end of the game that the first reaction in his mind was that Lundy going to ground wasn’t the right thing to do. It wasn’t stonewall, and I felt he won the ball so from our point of view we didn’t have the rub of the green today in that regard.”
A positive though was the home debut of attackers George Thomas, Andy Dales and late substitute Ryan Colclough.
Daws said: “I thought George was a little bundle of energy, as was Andy Dales on the opposite side. We’ve had a week to work with George and a day to work with Ryan. Ryan showed what he was capable of and will excite the crowd. I felt all three wide players who were on the pitch at any one time were probably the highlights of the game.”
Josh Morris returned to the bench following a thigh injury, and came on as a late substitute, while Rory McArdle also returned to the substitutes’ bench following a one-game suspension and a thigh injury.
Daws continued: “Josh has done loads of fitness work but hasn’t been able to play football for the best part of five weeks. He’s now clear and it’s just a case of building him up to a point where he can be involved. He demands the ball, keeps it moving and that’s what he gave when he came on.
“Rory has not had a lot of training and the birth of his child has made him a little bit more tired too, but he wants to be involved so credit to him for that.”
He added: “One of the key ways of getting some of those boys up to speed is they’re going to have to play some minutes, so we need to think about how we’re going to manage that and achieve that. Funso Ojo is in a situation where he’s not too far away but just not quite right, so that’s another one to consider.
“He had a slight reaction after the Coventry game. He was keen to play and I was keen for him to be involved. He ended up coming on and impacting the game in a positive way. He just had a little bit of a setback, he trained in the recovery session on Monday, but didn’t train on Tuesday and Thursday, which were our key fitness sessions. Then on Friday he just didn’t feel quite right, so rather than risk him and cause any long-term damage, we decided to pull the reins on him a bit. That’s a mutual thing between the staff and the player, which is always important because we want our players 100 per cent fit and fresh.
“We’ve just got to see how he comes through. He trained part of a session today and will hopefully train on Monday. Then, if he’s good, he’ll come into contention for the squad on Tuesday. If it’s not Tuesday, we’ll push it back, but it’s not something we can put a definitive timescale on. We have a great team behind us and will do what’s right.”
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