United manager Stuart McCall is looking to keep the momentum going when his side visit Walsall in League One on Saturday.
The Iron go into the game at the Banks’s Stadium on the back of three successive wins and following five signings last week, which have bolstered the squad and provided McCall with a selection headache of the positive kind.
There was a behind-closed-doors friendly against Grimsby Town in midweek, which saw the new arrivals, players who have been on the fringes of the team and goalkeeper Matt Gilks, as part of his recovery from a knee injury, all receive valuable game time.
McCall told iFollow Iron: “We had a really good session on Thursday and it’s the first time we’ve actually had 24 outfield players training, which is incredible really to say not long ago we only had 12 or 14. There are a lot more bodies training, which naturally intensifies the competition.
“The match in midweek was a good chance to give game time to some of the players who have not been playing regularly. Some got 90 minutes, while a lot got 60. Even the fringe lads who have not played much got time. Yas (Yasin Ben El-Mhanni) got 30 but wasn’t feeling well in the week. It was good for Gillo (Matt Gilks) to get an hour. There were positives from it.
“We had a meeting on Thursday morning just outlining what we’re wanting and expect from the new signings. We’ve got to look to kick on. We’re still down there and we know what we need to do to keep improving. It’s nice to have a bit of confidence but we know we’re not out of danger. We have a lot of tough games coming up over the next month and have to keep working hard.
“There is strong competition. The lads have had some decent results and there are people who have the jerseys at the moment, while there are lads coming back from injury who are joining in training now. Butty (Lewis Butroid) and George Hornshaw are back out there, while Lundy (Matthew Lund) has been involved too, and then there are the goalkeepers Gillo and Rory (Watson).
“The bottom line is what happens on a matchday but there are a lot of players who know they have to be ‘at it’ not just in every game but also in training and about the place.”
McCall has watched the victory over Coventry back this week and continued: “It was a good performance. Looking back, in the first half we were excellent. A member of Coventry’s staff had said that we were really difficult to play against, and that’s good. In the past, we’ve had people say ‘you’ve got a good side, you’ve outplayed us today’, but to be difficult to play against is what we have to be. We can’t be an easy touch. We have to be tough to score against and also put the opposition under pressure. The intensity we played at, starting from the front two and throughout the side, was good.”
Walsall have gone five league games without a win but McCall is under no illusions about the challenge Dean Keates’ side will pose.
He said: “The games I’ve watched them play in recently, they should have won at Peterborough, were unfortunate against Charlton and were 2-0 up against Luton. Even though the results weren’t what they wanted, the performances weren’t far off what they’ve been this season. I listened to their manager bemoan that when they’ve conceded one goal they’ve let in another quite quickly, and we’ve had this season too so I know where he’s coming from with that.
“We will concentrate on ourselves. They have a good group of players and have been quite consistent. It will be another difficult game, as they always are, but one we go into with confidence.
“We’ve drummed into the boys all week that just because we’ve won three on the bounce, we can’t stop doing the hard work. It’s all about the togetherness, desire and team organisation.
“We’ve got some good professionals in that dressing room, so they know what’s required. We also have strong competition. I know last season they used to have a group in on a Saturday morning that weren’t involved in the first team squad. We haven’t had the numbers for that since I’ve been in (as manager), but this Saturday there will probably be six or seven in who aren’t in the squad so that tells you the strength in depth we have now.”
McCall explained more about the progress of Lund, who has been out of match action since December 15th with a knee problem, but says he won’t be an option for this weekend’s match.
He stated: “Lundy has trained Monday and Tuesday with no ill effect and also came through Thursday’s session. He’s quite upbeat and one we’ll have to monitor. I’ll speak to the physios and see what we need to do with him at the weekend. He’s quietly confident but there’s a long way to go yet. He’s been in training though and done everything asked of him.
“He just wants to get out there and play football, but with the injections he’s had in the knee and the rest (that he’s had), there’s probably a 50 per cent chance that will work. If it does, brilliant, and at the moment it looks like that is happening, but there’s a chance he may need an operation as well. You can’t get too excited about it because he’s not been in a full-on competitive game where he has to make tackles and really go for it. He’s done well in training though, so it’s so far so good.
“Unfortunately Rory (Watson) was meant to get 30 minutes in the game on Tuesday, but on Monday the last shot of training saw him hurt his elbow and suffer some soreness. He’s trained again on Thursday though and is fine. We had five goalies training out there on Thursday.”
When asked if there was the chance of any further signings this month, McCall concluded: “Not at this moment in time. You never say never because there’s always work and discussions going on behind the scenes. Likewise, the squad is really big now and there might be an opportunity for one or two lads to go out on loan, but we’ll have to see how things pan out over the next couple of weeks.”
See much more from Stuart McCall, Rory McArdle and Adam Hammill on iFollow Iron. Click here to sign up.