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Hill looks ahead to Northampton home match this Tuesday

21 February 2022

First team manager Keith Hill has previewed the home game against Northampton Town on Tuesday night (7.45pm kick-off), as his side look to return to winning ways against the Cobblers.

Looking ahead to the fixture against Jon Brady's side, who sit third in the division, Hill told iFollow Iron: "They're a team that's intent on getting promoted. The infrastructure of the club and recruitment drive shows that. They've got a good squad but we will be able to compete with them. We've got good technicians who can change a match for us and have just got to put a full 90 minute game together."

Talking further about Saturday's 2-1 home loss to Rochdale, during which his side led at half-time through a Manny Onariase goal, he said: "We weren't good enough over the course of 90 minutes and that's the simple fact. You can't hide and pretend it's not happening, you've got to deal with it. There are times during the game where you have to survive and in those moments we haven't been good enough over the course of the last 32 games, and before that during last season as well.

"We've got to deal with the facts and try to improve but for me it's not a time to beat people up. It's a time to encourage players to be braver and be better in their decision-making. For large periods of the game we very good, but just didn't deal with the opponents in the second half. There was a suggestion somewhere after the game that there was no fight or spirit, but I think that's an emotional reaction to a difficult result.

"Trust me, there's fight in the players and certainly effort. You look at the GPS data and the players are running for the football club. Sometimes they're not making the correct decisions individually and as a team as well, but during the period of the 90 minutes when we have to survive in games we don't seem to be making the right decisions to come through the other side.

"Since we played Bristol Rovers at home (at the end of January), we've kept a first-half clean sheet for the corresponding fixtures. It's a great platform to build on but we seem to make more mistakes in the second-half - I don't know whether that's fatigue, fitness or concentration. It's something we have to improve on, there's no question about that.

"We're giving ourselves a good platform to build on and we haven't been taking advantage of that. The one time we were very good at surviving was against Walsall when we went down to ten men (and won 1-0), so we've got to have that surviving attitude in the game when the opposition have their spell. We can't fold and let the opponents take advantage of the small mistakes which lead into big mistakes.

"When you get disappointment it's how you deal with it individually and collectively. I don't get angry anymore and let a bad situation bring out the worst in me. I try to see a future and plan, building a platform and foundation where we can go again. The good thing about football is it gives you an opportunity to go again. I'm here to try and build something but believe that the structure has to be rebuilt and that's what we're trying to do. It's not going to be transparent overnight, it's going to take time - there's no question about that.

"It's very difficult with the situation we're in, having brought players in during January, because everyone is trying to catch up. They're at different fitness levels and speeds during the first-half and second-half, and it's hard to bring everybody together without a six-to-eight week pre-season where you've got an identity and an environment that suits everybody, and a clear way of thinking and playing."

There are no fresh injury worries ahead of the match, with Sam Burns set to be assessed after coming off early in the second period at the weekend.

Hill said: "It's more a question of managing game time and making sure we have players who are looking good and feeling good. Again, the situation we're in, some will be feeling pressure while some will be able to deal with the anxieties it brings, but it makes us more stronger. I'm going to be in a situation where I'll be selecting a side that I feel represents our best chances of getting the points against Northampton.

"You've got to bring your best A-game to the table week-in, week-out. Sam was on the physio's bed at half-time and the medical advice was he had a tight calf. I didn't want to run him into an injury so on that advice I made a footballing decision but one that will benefit us and Sam in the long-term."

See much more from Keith Hill and Hayden Hackney on iFollow Iron.


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