I expected Garry Monk to make changes ahead of tonight’s game at Rochdale, but I didn’t think we would see a completely different side from the weekend. I thought it was an interesting line up to go with, and like man, expected us to have enough to come out victorious.
After we settled down into the game and got into our rhythm, we established control, and we were moving the ball around confidently and crisply. A lot of people often focus on what teams do with the ball, and when they’re in the ascendency, but our work off the ball tonight was tremendous. And, it’s a sign of the culture change which is underway at the club thanks to Garry Monk and his staff.
Our press was crucial for me tonight. It was effective against a side which plays out from the back, and we got a lot of joy from putting them under pressure high up the pitch. For a press to work, everyone must buy into it. They must be committed, focused and willing to do the running. This, for me, is one hell of a positive to see. The players, whoever’s selected, are taking on board the information and executing it. And they’re doing so, together.
We saw some of our younger players get the nod this evening, and it was at the back where I noticed something else worth pointing out. I thought Liam Shaw was excellent, and Ciaran Brennan did himself proud on his debut. The latter made a couple of honest ricks shortly before being substituted, and who was there to dig him out of trouble? His teammate and friend, Liam Shaw. And, he gave him a bit of a ticking off as well. The players are fighting for each other and alongside each other. It’s been a while since we’ve seen it.
In the current climate, it’s more important than ever for us to get the best out of the players we have at the club, for us to improve them, and for them to be coachable and ready to learn. Liam Palmer, our skipper this evening, provided an excellent cross which Elias Kachunga headed home with aplomb to break the deadlock. It’s an area of his game which is improving, as seen tonight and when on international duty, and another sign of the effective work we’re doing at Middlewood Road in the week.
Finally, a tip of the hat to Fisayo Dele-Bashiru, who I thought was excellent throughout. He will continue to get better and could prove to be an absolute steal by us further down the line. Alex Hunt again showed his class, and Josh Windass made an impressive impact when he came on to the pitch. But, as always, everyone played their part, and that’s why we won the game and look in good nick. We’re a team, which is together, and we’re making progress. Long may it continue.