Gameplan carried out “to the letter”

Kevin Watson had warm words for individuals but was keener to praise the team effort that earned a crucial three points at Maidenhead United on Tuesday evening.

And he was pleased as punch that his side did everything he asked of them before the game, off the back of a potentially morale-sapping defeat at Chesterfield.

“All I asked from the boys was when we got in areas high up the pitch, out wide, to cross the ball and when you get half a yard, to shoot. They carried that out to the letter,” he told BBC Radio Kent’s Charles Webster.

“We’ve not been shooting enough, we’ve not been putting enough crosses in. I left Gozie Ugwu out on Saturday, I left Josh Umerah out completely and I said go and show me why I am wrong. I needed it sometimes. You need a kick up the backside, you get complacent, you feel your place in the team is cemented and no-one should feel that comfortable. Their response was outstanding, the front two worked their socks off. Josh only came off because he’s not played a lot of football.”

And the win was the perfect response to those who wrote the Fleet off after defeat to relegation rivals Chesterfield, with the Maidenhead victory meaning Watson’s men have won two of their three six-pointers this past fortnight.

“We still have the record of not losing two on the trot which hopefully is going to stand us in good stead,” said the manager. “We took a lot of stick and I took a lot of stick on Saturday but there’s only one way to respond to that and that’s to come out and perform in the next game.

“Once again I hear, if you’re going down, go down with some fight and all this stuff. That’s easy to say after a game like Saturday. People that want to have a pop can have a pop when we lose but I hope they give us credit when we win.

“People that were here tonight will know these boys are trying their absolute socks off for the club and to keep us in the division. We as staff are working our socks off to keep us in this division. You can never please everybody all of the time but once again our support was great and I look forward to Saturday now.”

Fleet fell behind to an unfortunate goal early on but Watson was delighted with the instant response as the visitors played their way out of trouble rather than feeling sorry for themselves.

“We only had four defenders available tonight because of injuries,” he said. “I chose to change the shape a little bit to be attacking because we need to win, draws are no good to us now. And the boys have delivered. The first half we were outstanding, probably the best football since I’ve been at the club. We played in a controlled manner, were aggressive and excellent up the slope against the wind.

“We didn’t really look like scoring in the second half but I’m not overly sure they did either. Going up the slope against the wind, we were good and they were better doing the same because balls were holding up and just running away going down the slope. The second half was not as good but in the grand scheme of things I really don’t care. We defended for our lives,  we threw bodies on the line and Jordan’s only had to make a couple of saves.”

After a month on the sidelines, substitute goalkeeper Holmes looked anything but rusty as he threw himself into action and his response drew praise from his boss.

“He’s been patient, waited his turn, trained brilliantly and you have to when you’re not in the team. Whether you’re an outfield player or goalkeeper, you’ve got to train like that because when you come in you’ve got to be called upon and he was tonight.

“He was excellent and a great attitude from him. The boys in front of him, the back three, too. Lawrie Wilson has played the right side of a back three tonight and I thought he was very good. Kingy and Grimesy won absolutely every header. I couldn’t be more pleased. I was comfortable on the side without being too comfortable. I was comfortable on Saturday for 60 minutes and that backfired. A two-goal lead is never comfortable in any league.”

Michael Timlin made his debut finally and was tidy in midfield, talking to his teammates throughout.

“Michael came in and you can see he’s played at a higher level,” said his manager. “Nothing spectacular, knows the game, keeps it simple. He knows when to pass it, knows when to spin it in behind, he can head, can tackle. Adam Mekki was unplayable, Jermaine McGlashan was terrific. 

“So keep the shirt, play in the same manner, be aggressive, score one goal and go and get another one which we’ve not done too often. I think the last time was at Chorley when we got ourselves two in front, went and scored four. We got one tonight and ended up with three.”

The only downside to the evening was the injury to goalkeeper David Gregory that saw him stretchered off a quarter of an hour into the game, initially thought to be badly bruised ribs, and the prognosis for an instant return isn’t good.

“One thing’s for sure, he won’t be ready for Saturday,” said Watson. “His back went into spasm when he ran into two players, I think one of ours and one of theirs so that’s how our luck’s going but we’ve got two very adequate replacements and Jordan was outstanding in his decision making, in his kicking, he’s made a couple of very good saves. His talking to the back three was good so all in all a great shift from the lads.”

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