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Hill looks ahead to trip to take on Exeter

13 January 2022

First team manager Keith Hill has previewed the trip to take on Exeter City this Saturday (3pm kick-off), as his side look to bounce back from the disappointment of last weekend's game at Tranmere Rovers.

Hill told iFollow Iron: "It's been a reflective, hard-working week and we've just had to revisit as a group the fundamentals of the way that we want to play. December was really encouraging, we were unbeaten and played with a real identity and a clarity to the way that we work out of possession.

"Unfortunately the performance against Tranmere didn't reflect those principles and that's why we were heavily beaten. First and foremost we've got to commit physically to the game and the way that we play. I understand why we got beaten and it wasn't down to our footballing ability, but more our lack of physical impact and that's the biggest disappointment in any game. You have to commit physically to do the hard work, and that's what was missing.

"I am encouraged by the physical capabilities of the players. We got the win against Oldham, which was born purely out of hard work from the previous month's endeavours and from a learning perspective we climbed the hill that was necessary, but I don't know if there was a little bit of arrogance after we won that game.

"We didn't do enough, even though it was a good performance against Carlisle, to get anything from the game, and then against Tranmere, the physical impact that we didn't make was the worst since I've been at the club and that really disappointed me.

"You have to accept as a manager that you're going to lose some football matches when you come into this type of job, but the manner in which we got beat isn't a reflection of the hard work that the players are capable of or the hard work the staff do on a regular basis - nor did it reflect my principles or those of the supporters.

"When they turn up, and they did in their numbers against Tranmere, they expect to see effort, hard work and commitment towards the cause, and within that we'll get results as we've proven to, and we had that in abundance for example against Leyton Orient (in November). They probably should have won that game but because we worked as hard as Leyton Orient we got a little bit of luck and we drew that game. I expect us to work harder than the opponents."

Focusing on the trip to Exeter City, who sit just outside the play-off zone coming into the weekend, he said: "It's up to performances but the minimum requirement I expect is hard work. I can deal with the disappointment of losing football matches as a principle of the game itself, but the hard work is fundamental to anybody being able to look at their own team-mates, the supporters and staff with a little bit of pride in what they've done irrespective of the result. We didn't survive (the periods of pressure) last week, we fell way below par of what I expect from a team.

"I feel if we work hard for each other and individually, as we did do in December, we'll get positive results whether it's Exeter, Tranmere or Forest Green. We have to work harder than our opponents and if we do and we're capable of doing that. I believe we're capable of getting results."

Updating on injuries, Hill explained the recent absence from the squad of left-back Lewis Thompson, saying: "He had a serious hamstring injury. I'm not too sure how much longer he will be out for but he's back doing light jogging on the training pitch. He's got Premier League standards in his commitment towards recovering as quickly as he possibly can. I believe he's ahead of schedule but he's a good, self-conscious professional football player doing everything he can to help in our pursuit of League Two survival. That gives me a lot of enthusiasm and hope."

Updating on whether there will be any changes to the squad available last weekend, he continued: "With the Covid situation, we have players who have been put back into the training squad but everyone is showing different recoveries and it's tough to assess and evaluate where players are.

"We have picked up injuries during the course of the week and we're still in a situation where can't really select a guaranteed side just yet due to the principles of having to test on a daily basis. You've got to plan but ultimately performances with intelligent energy and ultimately intelligent enthusiasm belongs to the players."

He concluded with an update on the transfer window, and said: "I'm concentrating on the players we have available. If and when we get the opportunity to improve the squad with better players, and give the players we have in the squad a lift, we'll do it, but what we won't do is panic. We can't do that and make knee-jerk reaction signings. We have to improve and make sure we get the right players in for the right money at the right time."

See much more from Keith Hill and Jai Rowe on iFollow Iron.


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