Manager Stuart McCall has been previewing the home clash against Accrington Stanley, and reflected on the week’s preparation in an interview with iFollow Iron.
He said there are a couple of players who are doubtful, but they will be assessed in the run-up to kick-off.
McCall enjoyed the behind-closed-doors game against a Sheffield Wednesday XI on Tuesday, which ended 3-3, and also got the chance to speak to supporters at the club’s Fans’ Forum that evening.
McCall told iFollow Iron: “A lot of the week so far has been positive but the only downside is we’ve had two or three players who haven’t been able to train so far, but we’re hopeful they’ll be okay for Saturday. I like to name the side on a Friday but we might need to delay it until Saturday.
“Kyle Wootton (who missed last week at Barnsley) returned to training on Thursday but will be assessed again on Friday.
“There’s a little bit of illness but hopefully the couple of lads who have been ill should be okay.
“On the positive side, we had a really good Under-23s game against Sheffield Wednesday at Glanford Park on Tuesday. After the first 20 minutes, when they were on top, we got into it and there were some really good performances. It was enjoyable to watch and it’s good when you see people playing at a good tempo and with drive, determination and quality as well.
“On Tuesday night, we had the Fans’ Forum, which was fun and also serious when it needed to be. It was nice to be welcomed by the supporters.
“We had a really good tempo training session on Thursday. I said to the staff that there are a couple who have trained well all week, played well on Tuesday, who might not even be in the 18 on Saturday and that shows how good our strength in depth is now.”
Olufela Olomola made it five goals in four recent behind-closed-doors outings and has impressed McCall with his hard work since returning from a loan stint at League Two side Yeovil Town.
He said: “Not only is it his goals but it’s the way he’s playing. He’s come back from Yeovil, where he had an average time I’d say. He didn’t play every game and at the back end of it had a couple of little niggly injuries, but he’s always got a smile on his face. He’s trained really well and is enjoying his football. He’s a good character and he’s certainly knocking on the door and really giving us food for thought.”
James Perch starts a two-match suspension this weekend after picking up his 10thbooking of the season at Barnsley last weekend.
The boss added: “We knew Perchy was near a ban. I didn’t think it was a worthy yellow card last week, the player came in and tackled, the ref then played on and pulled up for another soft foul. He’s had two or three of them, and if you’re in the engine room of the team you’re going to make challenges, but it is what it is. It’s a two-game suspension. He’s done well for us at the bottom of the diamond and has got better as the season has gone on, playing an important part in the recent run we’ve had, but it opens the door for someone else to come in there now.
“Levi (Sutton) was very unfortunate not to start at Fleetwood. He came on and did well, and then, with the shape we went with, was also unfortunate not to start at Barnsley. Lundy (Matthew Lund) got 90 minutes under his belt against Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday and came through with no ill effects, so that’s a positive. There’s also George Thomas who can play in there depending on what shape we play. We certainly have good options, which is important.”
McCall is looking forward to taking on Stanley, who he also faced on his first game as United manager in a 1-1 draw back at the start of September.
He said: “For a team that came up last season, and with a limited budget, they’ve had a really good campaign up to now. They started so well and the expectations rose. Recently, they’ve had some really good FA Cup performances, beating Ipswich, and were unfortunate not to take Derby to a replay. Of late, they’ve not scored many but they had a 0-0 against Gillingham last time out, drew 0-0 with Bristol Rovers and got beat late on by Charlton with what I feel was never a penalty. They’ve been hard to play against, but have good technical players in their team too and try to play football. They’ve shored it up defensively and it has the makings of a good footballing game on Saturday.”
Speaking about the match earlier in the season, he continued: “We could only improve on the first 45 minutes! I watched it back on Wednesday. From the kick-off, we passed it out of the park and it was like we had our boots on the wrong feet for the first half. We started with a diamond and I had to sacrifice George Thomas, who was no worse than anyone else, but we couldn’t get the ball to him. We changed it and Ryan (Colclough) came on, and we were a lot better in the second-half going 4-3-3. We were fortunate to scrape a point that day but we look forward now to Saturday.
“We had more Scunthorpe supporters than we’ve had all season at the last home match (against Sunderland). They were really vocal and the game was good. The atmosphere was terrific and we hope our fans come out again in large numbers and make themselves heard.”
Saturday sees the club host its annual Grassroots Day for the third time, and McCall is hoping his team can put on a performance for the 1,000+ young spectators who will help fill the AMS Stand.
He stated: “It’s brilliant to get the local teams coming here and they’ll make a lot of noise behind the goal. It’s good to have our fans behind both goals and hopefully we can put a performance on for them, sending them home happy and enjoying the day. They’re the future of our support base and hopefully they can come back after enjoying themselves this weekend.”
The game will see United try to bounce back from a 2-0 loss at Barnsley last time out, which ended a six-game unbeaten run that included five wins.
He said: “Like any result, you mull over it during the weekend, but come Monday you want the players bright, breezy and looking forward to the next challenge, which is Accrington. We don’t know how they’ll go because they have a couple of new lads in and their game against Blackpool last week was postponed. We have to focus on what we can do. We’re looking forward to getting out there and hopefully starting another good run. We know we’ll have to work hard but hopefully we can bring the quality and clinical finishing we need to win the game.”
Moving on to injuries, and goalkeeper Rory Watson looks likely to miss the rest of the season following a second operation on his arm.
The shostopper has been out of action since breaking the arm against Barnsley in late August.
McCall said: “Rory has been so frustrated because he can do most things in training but it’s the last little bit. The specialist thought the wrist would heal itself but it hasn’t quite done that, so he’s had to go under the knife again. He’s shown in training what quality he has, even though he’s been 90 per cent fit. He’s got it done now and hopefully he’ll be back sooner rather than later. I’m not fully sure if he’s out for the season. We’ll have a review on that and see how he’s doing, but the focus needs to probably be on being fully right for pre-season.”
There were also updates on on-loan left-back Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and a member of the medical team.
“CBJ has gone under the knife and he’ll stay with Manchester United,” said McCall. “It’s a six-week recovery but once he’s back out on the grass doing light running, he’ll join in with us again. The operation went well and he’ll still have a part to play at the back end of the season if he gets to a good fitness level.”
He added: “Another one I’ve not mentioned is a popular member of staff, Kev Hornsby the masseur. He went for an operation a few weeks ago and is recovering from it. We wish him a speedy recovery. He’s missed here and we hope he’s back with us soon. I spoke to him the other day. He’s still sore but once you’re involved in football, you miss it when you’re away from it. Everyone likes him and we’re missing him, so we wish him a speedy recovery.”
There were also updates on the progress of Josh Morris, Ryan Colclough and Jordan Clarke.
McCall explained: ”Josh (fractured fibula and strained ankle ligaments) goes to the specialist for a scan on Friday to see where he’s at. He feels okay doing what he’s doing and he’s on schedule, but we’ll know more on Friday, and we’ll see how far he’s progressed.
“Ryan is going to be the length of time we thought he would be, and doing fine. Jordan is on target and doing what the physios and specialist expect of him. It’s good to see them in, doing their work, mixing with the players and feeling part of the squad really.”
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